The Linux Foundation Needs to Speak Out Against Microsoft’s Ongoing (Continued) Patent Shakedown of OEMs That Ship Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 10:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An influence group, not a Linux advocacy group


Summary: Zemlin actively thanks Microsoft while taking Microsoft money; he meanwhile ignores how Microsoft viciously attacks Linux using patents, revealing the degree to which his foundation, the “Linux Foundation” (not about Linux anymore, better described as Zemlin’s PAC), has been compromised

WE HAVE, by now, seen about a dozen articles about Microsoft’s patent lawsuit/complaint against Foxconn. A lot of these articles are similar, some are behind paywall, but the message is clear. Microsoft not only shows that it doesn’t “love Linux”; it shows its hatred and intolerance.

A decade ago Jim Zemlin wrote a strongly-worded blog post about Microsoft’s lawsuit against TomTom, but where is he now? Microsoft continues Linux extortion, but the Microsoft-bribed Linux Foundation isn't saying a thing, it is just taking yet more Microsoft hush money.

See the second item here (press from Taipei, Taiwan):

Acer Inc (宏碁) chairman and CEO Jason Chen (陳俊聖) on Tuesday said that the PC maker’s royalty payments to Microsoft Inc are governed by contracts with the US software giant and are not paid by partner original design manufacturers and electronics manufacturing services providers. Chen’s comments came amid a patent dispute between Microsoft and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海) that prompted personal rebukes by Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) earlier that day. Acer pays Microsoft directly to fulfill the conditions of the licensing contracts, Chen said.

So the extortion racket carries on and maybe Microsoft joined OIN only after it had secured such cash flow with all the major OEMs that ship Android and other systems with Linux in them. Either way, the Linux Foundation linked to this article last night. It says: “Following up on those announcements, Microsoft-owned GitHub said it would donate $100,000 to CommunityBridge and invited maintainers of CommunityBridge projects to take part in GitHub’s maintainer program. “We greatly appreciate GitHub’s donation and support of CommunityBridge and are happy to match it—all in the name of the maintainers we both aim to serve,” said Zemlin, in a prepared statement. “We invite other organizations to engage in our grant program, and help us solve critical challenges to better support long-term sustainability for open source projects.””

So Zemlin actively thanks Microsoft. Yes, he thanks them while they do the above. What a difference some “campaign contributions” can make… the Zemlin PAC knows where the money comes from. In fact, one might joke that his salary comes (in part) from patent extortion of Linux. Later he signals to regulators that it’s absolutely OK for Microsoft to take over GitHub and the Linux Foundation puts code and projects in this Microsoft/NSA (PRISM) platform.

Links 15/3/2019: Linux 5.0.2, Sublime Text 3.2

Posted in News Roundup at 10:11 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • US red lines for digital trade with the UK cause alarm

    The US government has published its negotiating objectives for a trade deal with the UK, which include some worrying proposals on digital trade, including a ban on the disclosure of source code and algorithms, and potential restrictions on data protection.


    The US wants to stop the UK government from “mandating the disclosure of computer source code or algorithms”. This is one of the most concerning aspects of the new digital trade agenda, already found in other recent trade agreements, and criticised by groups such as Third World Network. Restricting source code and algorithms is problematic for various reasons. In particular, the UK government has been pioneering open source software, despite some setbacks, and these clauses could be used to challenge any public procurement perceived to give preference to open source.

  • New service mesh emerges from the creators of gRPC and Istio

    The creators of gRPC and Istio have created a new enterprise-grade service mesh that is launching today. Tetrate is built on top of Istio and Envoy, and adds enterprise-grade scalability, performance, and ecosystem adapters. Envoy is a network load balancer for microservices, while Istio is a service mesh that acts as a control plane layer over Istio.

  • Tetrate Launched, Google Chrome 73 Released, Godot 3.1 Is Now Available, Enroll to Try Android Q Beta, and Pi Day Live Stream Event and Contest

    Tetrate, a new enterprise-grade service mesh from the creators of gRPC and Istio, launched yesterday. Varun Talwar, CEO of Tetrate and formerly co-creator of Istio at Google, says “Tetrate’s mission is to create a secure and flexible application networking layer to help enterprises transition from their decades-old rigid networking stack. Our tools and technologies will help customers with availability and manageability of their applications as they undergo this transformation.” In addition, “Tetrate is launching with $12.5 million in funding from Dell Technologies Capital, as well as from participating investors 8VC, Intel Capital, Rain Capital, and Samsung NEXT.” It also plans to use the funding to “extend its open-source leadership and further contribute to the open-source community”. See this ITOps Times article for more information.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla releases Iodide, an open source browser tool for publishing dynamic data science

        Mozilla wants to make it easier to create, view, and replicate data visualizations on the web, and toward that end, it today unveiled Iodide, an “experimental tool” meant to help scientists and engineers write and share interactive documents using an iterative workflow. It’s currently in alpha, and available from GitHub in open source.

        “In the last ten years, there has been an explosion of interest in ‘scientific computing’ and ‘data science’: that is, the application of computation to answer questions and analyze data in the natural and social sciences,” Brendan Colloran, staff data scientist at Mozilla, wrote in a blog post. “To address these needs, we’ve seen a renaissance in programming languages, tools, and techniques that help scientists and researchers explore and understand data and scientific concepts, and to communicate their findings. But to date, very few tools have focused on helping scientists gain unfiltered access to the full communication potential of modern web browsers.”

      • Rep of the Month – February 2019

        Please join us in congratulating Edoardo Viola, our Rep of the Month for February 2019!

        Edoardo is a long-time Mozillian from Italy and has been a Rep for almost two years. He’s a Resource Rep and has been on the Reps Council until January. When he’s not busy with Reps work, Edoardo is a Mentor in the Open Leadership Training Program. In the past he has contributed to Campus Clubs as well as MozFest, where he was a Space Wrangler for the Web Literacy Track.

      • Firefox Send is a Free, Encrypted File Sharing Service

        It just got easier (and more secure) to share files with your friends and family online — all thanks to Mozilla, makers of Firefox.

        The free-web advocating non-profit has announced that its ‘Firefox Send‘ feature has graduated from (the now axed) test pilot programme to fully fledged service in its own right.

        And the best bit? You don’t even need Firefox to use it.

      • Thank you, Denelle Dixon

        I want to take this opportunity to thank Denelle Dixon for her partnership, leadership and significant contributions to Mozilla over the last six years.

        Denelle joined Mozilla Corporation in September 2012 as an Associate General Counsel and rose through the ranks to lead our global business and operations as our Chief Operating Officer. Next month, after an incredible tour of duty at Mozilla, she will step down as a full-time Mozillian to join the Stellar Development Foundation as their Executive Director and CEO.

  • BSD

    • Microkernel Failure | BSD Now 289

      A kernel of failure, IPv6 fragmentation vulnerability in OpenBSD’s pf, a guide to the terminal, using a Yubikey for SSH public key authentication, FreeBSD desktop series, and more.


    • Activists and experts gather in Cambridge for ethical tech conference to celebrate software freedom on March 23-24

      Next weekend, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) presents the eleventh annual LibrePlanet free software conference in Cambridge, March 23-24, 2019, at the Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LibrePlanet is an annual conference for people who care about their digital freedoms, bringing together software developers, policy experts, activists, and computer users to learn skills, share accomplishments, and tackle challenges facing the free software movement, including 3D printing, cryptography, medical devices, privacy, security, and current issues in software licensing. LibrePlanet 2019 will focus on the exploration of software freedom and how to bring to life trailblazing, principled new technologies.

      LibrePlanet 2019 will include four keynotes. Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician, will talk about his work on making medical devices accessible through free designs that meet medical industry standards. Micky Metts, a member of the Agaric Design Collective, will talk about your collective and individual roles in maintaining your freedoms, with free software as the foundation. Bdale Garbee, longtime free software contributor and former Debian Project Leader, will tell us about the fun in free software, using personal anecdotes as examples. Richard Stallman, founder of the FSF and president of the board of directors, will discuss current issues facing user freedom, and announce the winners of the 2018 Free Software Foundation awards.

    • Software Freedom Conservancy Becomes an Open Source Initiative Affiliate Member
    • Conservancy Becomes an Open Source Initiative Affiliate Member

      Conservancy joins a long list of Open Source Initiative Affiliate Members. We believe that the non-profits serving free and open source software communities should seek out ways to support each other. There are certainly many different strategies that help us build and maintain a robust commons and a solid consistent understanding of the licenses that enable collaborative development is critical. The Open Source Initiative’s role as steward of the Open Source Definition is extremely compatible with our own work to provide a fiscal home for community-driven free software projects and our ongoing work to enforce the General Public License (GPL).

      “We’re excited to participate in the Open Source Initiative’s ongoing work to educate users and decision-makers about how licensing and cooperation go hand in hand. By joining as an affiliate member, we affirm our support of collaboration to promote the ideals of software freedom.” says Karen Sandler, Software Freedom Conservancy’s Executive Director.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Norway’s new health archive is being built on open source

      The new Norwegian Health Archives (Norsk helsearkiv, NHA) is being built using open source software, including operating system Linux, relational database management system MariaDB, search engine Elasticsearch, and digital preservation system Archivematica.

  • Programming/Development

    • Tutorial: Why Functions Modify Lists and Dictionaries in Python

      Python’s functions (both the built-in ones and custom functions we write ourselves) are crucial tools for working with data. But what they do with our data can be a little confusing, and if we’re not aware of what’s going on, it could cause serious errors in our analysis.

      In this tutorial, we’re going to take a close look at how Python treats different data types when they’re being manipulated inside of functions, and learn how to ensure that our data is being changed only when we want it to be changed.

    • Introduction to Python FTP

      In this tutorial, we will explore how to use FTP with Python to send and receive files from a server over TCP/IP connections.

      To make things easier and more abstract, we will be using Python’s ftplib library which provides a range of functionalities that make it easier to work with FTP. We’ll see the implementation for uploading and downloading files from the server, as well as some other cool things that “ftplib” allows us to do.

    • Emmanuele Bassi: A little testing

      Years ago I started writing Graphene as a small library of 3D transformation-related math types to be used by GTK (and possibly Clutter, even if that didn’t pan out until Georges started working on the Clutter fork inside Mutter).

      Graphene’s only requirement is a C99 compiler and a decent toolchain capable of either taking SSE builtins or support vectorization on appropriately aligned types. This means that, unless you decide to enable the GObject types for each Graphene type, Graphene doesn’t really need GLib types or API—except that’s a bit of a lie.

      As I wanted to test what I was doing, Graphene has an optional build time dependency on GLib for its test suite; the library itself may not use anything from GLib, but if you want to build and run the test suite then you need to have GLib installed.

    • Fair Resource Distribution Algorithm v1

      Imagine a finite resource that you want to distribute amongst peers in a fair manner. If you know the number of peers to be n, the problem becomes trivial and you can assign every peer 1/n-th of the total. This way every peer gets the same amount, while no part of the resource stays unused. But what if the number of peers is only known retrospectively? That is, how many resources do you grant a peer if you do not know whether there are more peers or not? How do you define “fairness”? And how do you make sure as little of the resource as possible stays unused?

    • Fast, Bump-Allocated Virtual DOMs with Rust and Wasm

      Dodrio is a virtual DOM library written in Rust and WebAssembly. It takes advantage of both Wasm’s linear memory and Rust’s low-level control by designing virtual DOM rendering around bump allocation. Preliminary benchmark results suggest it has best-in-class performance.

    • Step-by-step how-to guide to use uWSGI with Python 3.7 for Ubuntu 18.04 and 18.10.
    • Using Pipfile in Binder


  • Science

    • π day

      Pi Day is celebrated everywhere on March 14th (3/14), since π is the mathematical symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter – numerically, approximately 3.14159.


      So let’s celebrate. Recite as many of the infinite digits of Pi as you can remember, memorizing is good for the brain anyway. Organize π-reciting contests. Eat pie. Eat pizza, it counts as pie. Eat anything round (and edible, please). Eat cake with friends (it’s also Einstein’s birthday, if you need a reason); eat donuts, eat cookies. Walk around in circles, have circular thoughts, throw pies at your colleagues, appreciate the casual relation between the ratio of the circumference of a circle and the English word for pastries filled with sweet goodness.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Judge in Second Roundup Cancer Trial Worked for Firm that Defended Monsanto

      On March 12, both sides in the Edwin Hardeman vs. Monsanto case delivered their closing arguments in San Francisco Federal Court. Hardeman sued Monsanto (now owned by Bayer), alleging that his longtime use of Roundup weedkiller caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

      The jury could return its verdict any day now. The six-juror panel must return a unanimous decision, or a mistrial will be called. A new trial would likely take place in May. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the case will enter the second phase, where Monsanto’s liability will be determined and damages may be awarded to the plaintiff.

      This week’s closing arguments followed a recent favorable ruling for the plaintiff—this despite new revelations about Chhabria’s past ties to Monsanto.

    • How Much Difference Will Eli Lilly’s Half-Price Insulin Make?

      When Erin Gilmer filled her insulin prescription at a Denver-area Walgreens in January, she paid $8.50. U.S. taxpayers paid another $280.51.

      “It eats at me to know that taxpayer money is being wasted,” said Gilmer, who has Medicare and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while a sophomore at the University of Colorado in 2002.

      The diagnosis meant that for the rest of her life she’d require daily insulin shots to stay alive. But the price of that insulin is skyrocketing.

      Between 2009 and 2017 the wholesale price of a single vial of Humalog, the Eli Lilly and Co.-manufactured insulin Gilmer uses, nearly tripled — rising from $92.70 to $274.70, according to data from IBM Watson Health.

    • The FDA Should Protect Consumers, Not a Dying Dairy Industry

      Do you think almond milk comes from a cow named Almond? Or that almonds lactate? The dairy industry thinks you do, and that’s what it’s telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

      For years, the dairy industry has been flexing its lobbying muscle, pressuring states and the federal government to restrict plant-based companies from using terms like “milk” on their labels, citing consumer confusion.

      The National Milk Producers Federation even helped get the “Dairy Pride Act” introduced, as part of its war on plant-based products. My organization, Compassion Over Killing (COK) and more than 10,000 petition signers suggest a better option: If the dairy industry has “pride” in its own product, why not clearly label it “cow’s milk”?

      Last fall, COK, Animal Legal Defense Fund and the University of California Los Angeles’s Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy submitted joint comments urging the FDA not to back the dairy industry’s anti-competitive efforts by restricting plant-based dairy products from being labeled with terms like “milk,” along with thousands of public comments submitted.

      Now, the agency has received thousands of responses to its call for public comments on other terms, such as “yogurt” and “cheese.” Though it’s doubtful that consumers who are not confused by almond milk would suddenly become confused by almond cheese.

    • Beating the Big Pharma Shell Game

      A trillion-dollar industry is in trouble. And it is fighting back.

      A Harvard-Politico poll taken after the 2018 elections showed that both Republican and Democrat voters cite prescription drug pricing as the top priority for this new Congress. A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals that nearly one in three US adults don’t take their medicines as prescribed at some point each year because of the cost. The same survey shows 80% of Americans agreeing that the price of medicines is unreasonable. Elected officials at the federal and state levels are reacting to this rising level of voter frustration by lining up to propose significant reforms.

      But Big Pharma did not get big by rolling over when challenged. The industry that tops the lists for US campaign contributions and lobbying dollars is aggressively countering the criticism with a classic tactic: a shell game designed to distract our attention elsewhere.

      In this case, the shiny object we are supposed to pay attention to is the so-called ‘middleman’ of the drug pricing process. Sometimes, the pharma industry tries to point our attention toward pharmacies or hospitals or insurance companies. But the usual target is pharmacy benefit managers, (PBMs), who act as buying networks for insurers and employers.

      As the Wall Street Journal has recently reported, this ‘hey, look over there’ approach by Big Pharma is the foundation of a thoroughly-planned, carefully-executed corporate disinformation strategy:

    • Clean Water at Risk as Trump Administration Ignores Science

      When lawmakers passed the Clean Water Act of 1972, they agreed the federal government needed stronger regulations to protect the waterways that we rely on for drinking, fishing, recreation and supporting a healthy environment.

      But our watersheds are more than just major rivers — there are wetlands, ponds and small streams, some of which only contain water part of the year. And it’s in these waterways that an ongoing, unseen conversation happens between surface and groundwater.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • 25 Most Common IoT Security Threats in an Increasingly Connected World

      The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly. IoT is the connectivity of devices over the internet. It’s like a social network or an email service, but instead of connecting people, IoT actually connects smart devices which include, but not limited to your computers, smartphones, smart home appliances, automation tools, and more.

      However, similar to all types of technologies out there, IoT is a double-edged sword as well. It has its upsides, but there are serious threats that accompany this technology. As manufacturers are racing against each other to bring the latest device in the market, not many of them are thinking about the security issues associated with their IoT devices.

    • Facebook Suffers Global Outage, Claims DDoS Not the Cause

      Facebook users around the world had a singular question for much of March 13: Is Facebook down?

      As it turns out, the global social media giant and its related Instagram and WhatsApp services were in fact unavailable and down for much of the day. Some service was restored by March 14, though full global availability across all Facebook services is still intermittent. With Facebook down, the company ironically had to resort to using rival social media service Twitter to keep many of its users informed.

      “We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the Facebook family of apps,” Facebook wrote in a Twitter message. “We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

      Facebook also provided minimal updates via its platform status dashboard for developers, with the first indication of trouble reported at 10:32 a.m. PT on March 13.

      “We are currently experiencing issues that may cause some API requests to take longer or fail unexpectedly,” the status page reports. “We are investigating the issue and working on a resolution.”

    • Kali Linux Forensics Tools

      Kali Linux is a powerful Operating system especially designed for Penetration Tester and Security Professionals. Most of its features and tools are made for security researchers and pentesters but it has a separate “Forensics” tab and a separate “Forensics” mode for Forensics Investigators.
      Forensics is becoming very important in Cyber Security to detect and backtrack Black Hat Criminals. It is essential to remove Hackers’ malicious backdoors/malwares and trace them back to avoid any possible future incidents. In Kali’s Forensics mode, Operating System doesn’t mount any partition from System’s hard drive and doesn’t leave any changes or fingerprints on host’s system.

      Kali Linux comes with pre-installed popular forensics applications and toolkits. Here we’ll review some famous open source tools present in Kali Linux.

    • What is SSH (Secure shell protocol)?

      SSH stands for Secure Shell which is a security protocol based on the application layer. We use the SSH to securely access the remote servers and Desktops to execute various commands. In short, we can control the complete system remotely, if we have login information and SSH server access. Because The Secure Shell (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol designed to replace the Telnet and access the remote system even on the unsecured remote shell by encrypting data before sending.

    • Security Researcher Discovers Flaws In Yelp-For-MAGAs App, Developer Threatens To Report Him To The Deep State

      Even a cursory look at past stories we’ve done about how companies treat security researchers who point out the trash-state of their products would reveal that entirely too many people and companies seem to think shooting the messenger is the best response. I have never understood the impulse to take people who are essentially stress-testing your software for free, ultimately pointing out how the product could be safer than it is, and then threatening those people with legal action or law enforcement. But, then, much of the world makes little sense to me.

      Such as why a Yelp-for-MAGA people should ever be a thing. But it absolutely is a thing, with conservative news site 63red.com releasing a mobile app that is essentially a Yelp-clone, but with the twist that its chief purpose is to let other Trump supporters know how likely they are to be derided when visiting a restaurant. This is an understandable impulse, I suppose, given the nature of politics in 2019 America, though the need for an app seems like overkill. Regardless, the app was released and a security researcher found roughly all the security holes in it.

    • “Yelp, but for MAGA” turns red over security disclosure, threatens researcher

      But the safe space for 63red founder Scott Wallace was violated quickly when French security researcher Elliot Alderson discovered some fundamental security flaws in Safe’s architecture—making it not so safe.

      Because the application is build in React Native, a JavaScript- and JSX-based scripting language that basically turns Web apps into “native” Apple iOS and Android applications, the entire architecture of the application is available to anyone who downloads and unpacks it. And in that code, Alderson discovered a few things: [...]

    • SMB Exploited

      Server Message Block (SMB) is the transport protocol used by Windows machines for a wide variety of purposes such as file sharing, printer sharing, and access to remote Windows services. SMB operates over TCP ports 139 and 445. In April 2017, Shadow Brokers released an SMB vulnerability named “EternalBlue,” which was part of the Microsoft security bulletin MS17-010.

      The recent WannaCry ransomware takes advantage of this vulnerability to compromise Windows machines, load malware, and propagate to other machines in a network. The attack uses SMB version 1 and TCP port 445 to propagate.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Boeing to Update Planes’ Software After Two Deadly Crashes

      The company noted on Tuesday that a flight control software enhancement for the aircraft model has been in the works for several months, following last year’s Lion Air Flight 610 crash of the same model that killed 189 people flying out of Indonesia.

    • Tribunal Declares Trump and Duterte Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity

      Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his government committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, aided and abetted by US President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a recent ruling from the International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines.

      The tribunal, which was held in Brussels, Belgium, on September 18 and 19, 2018, rendered its 84-page decision on these crimes on March 8. Conveners of the tribunal included the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, IBON International, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. A panel of eight jurors from Egypt, France, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States heard testimony from 31 witnesses, including me.

      These jurors ordered the defendants to make reparations; to provide compensation or indemnification, restitution and rehabilitation; and to be subjected to possible prosecution and sanctions for their crimes. Although the tribunal does not have the power to enforce those measures, its findings of facts and conclusions of law could be used to bolster the preliminary examination of crimes by the Duterte regime currently pending in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    • Reputed Gambino Crime Boss Shot to Death in New York City

      The reputed boss of New York’s Gambino crime family was gunned down outside his home, dying a virtual unknown compared with his swaggering 1980s-era predecessor, the custom-tailored tabloid regular John Gotti.

      Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, 53, was found with multiple gunshot wounds at his red-brick colonial-style house on Staten Island on Wednesday night and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

      Witnesses reported seeing a blue pickup truck speeding away, police said. No immediate arrests were made.

      Federal prosecutors had referred to Cali in court filings in recent years as the underboss of the Gambino organization. News accounts since 2015 said he had ascended to the top spot.

    • State Supreme Court Allows Lawsuit Against Gun Maker to Move Forward in ‘Massive Victory’ For Sandy Hook Families

      The maker of the semi-automatic assault rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 can potentially be held liable for the 26 killings the gun was used to commit, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

      The decision represents a major victory for the families of the 20 first-grade children and six educators who were killed in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, which inflamed outrage among gun control advocates who demanded lawmakers work to prevent mass shooting.

      “I am thrilled and tremendously grateful,” Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook, told the New York Times. “No one has blanket immunity. There are consequences.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Laura Poitras ‘Sickened’ By Layoffs at The Intercept

      “I am also sickened by your joint decision to shut down the Snowden archive, which I was informed of only yesterday—a decision made without consulting me or the board of directors.”

    • Met Police collaborated with US prosecutors in WikiLeaks investigation

      The Metropolitan Police shared information about WikiLeaks journalists with US prosecutors for at least four years as the US Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted secret investigations into the whistleblowing website and its founder Julian Assange.

      The Met has disclosed that it has shared correspondence with the US since at least 2013 on WikiLeaks’ UK staff, which include former investigations editor Sarah Harrison, editor in chief Kristinn Hrafnsson and section editor Joseph Farrell.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Despite Risks, Canada’s Tar Sands Industry Is Betting Big on Oil Trains

      Last year, Canada exported a record amount of tar sands oil to the U.S., despite low oil prices leading to major losses once again for the struggling tar sands industry. That achievement required a big bump in hauling oil by rail, with those daily volumes in late 2018 more than double the previous record in 2014 during the first oil-by-rail boom.

      Canada’s oil industry essentially has reached its limit for exporting oil into the U.S. through pipelines. That’s why it’s turning to rail to export more and more oil, but as an ever-increasing number of oil trains hit the tracks of North America, expect more accidents and oil spills to follow.

    • Enough Inaction: Green Groups Sue to Make France Act Boldly on Climate Crisis

      Four advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against France on Thursday for failing to take necessary action to tackle the climate crisis.

      The French groups—Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme (FNH), Greenpeace France, Notre Affaire à Tous, and Oxfam France—filed their case, which they’ve dubbed “l’Affaire du siècle” or the case of the century, in the administrative court of Paris.

    • ACLU Offers Legal Guidance for US Students Joining Friday’s Global Climate Strike

      That’s the message from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which reminded students of their rights Thursday by linking to a comprehensive overview of Constitutional protections on school grounds the group created last year.

      “If you’re a public school student, you don’t check your constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors,” the ACLU document says. “But whether schools can punish you for speaking out depends on when, where, and how you decide to express yourself.”

      While students might face some school punishment for taking part in the strike, the ACLU notes that the punishment cannot exceed that of similar actions.

      “Because the law in most places requires students to go to school, schools can discipline you for missing class,” according to the ACLU. “But what they can’t do is discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action.”

    • Brazil to open indigenous reserves to mining without indigenous consent

      For many years, international and Brazilian mining companies have dreamed of getting access to the mineral wealth lying beneath indigenous lands. And finally, the government of Jair Bolsonaro seems determined to give them that opportunity. On 4 March, while Brazilians were distracted by Carnival celebrations, the new Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced plans to permit mining on indigenous land.

      Speaking at the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), a major event in the mining world that attracts tens-of-thousands of attendees, the Minister said that Brazil’s indigenous people would be given a voice but not a veto in the matter. The opening of indigenous ancestral territories to mining, he predicted, would “bring benefits to these communities and to the country.”

      He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current 150-kilometer (93-mile) wide mining buffer zone at the frontier.

      The minister said that current mining restrictions are outdated. The long-restricted indigenous and border areas “have become centers of conflict and illegal activities, that in no way contribute to sustainable development or to sovereignty and national security.” The administration will shortly be holding a nationwide consultation to discuss how the changes should be made, he concluded.

    • Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Remain in the World, Scientists Announce

      Scientists announced Thursday that only 10 vaquita porpoises likely remain in the world and that the animal’s extinction is virtually assured without bold and immediate action.

      The vaquita, the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, is found only in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California. The release of the new vaquita estimate comes just two days after reports of the possible first vaquita mortality of 2019. More details are expected in the coming days.

    • Beto O’Rourke Becomes Latest 2020 Contender to Pledge Climate Action

      “This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us,” O’Rourke said in a video announcing his campaign. “The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater. And they will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America.”

    • Transformative Climate Action Is Possible — If Polluters Stay Away

      2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in “the number of Americans who say they worry ‘a great deal’ about climate change.”

      That was before the release of two reports in the fall by scientists commissioned by the United Nations and the U.S. federal government. Both reports painted a dire picture of the coming climate catastrophe and a clear timeline. They warned that if we don’t take drastic action to cut emissions globally, we will face global catastrophic effects of climate change. According to the U.N, we have about a decade. That’s no time at all.

      So it makes sense that at the very end of 2018, even as global greenhouse gas emissions rose alarmingly, two bold plans for climate action took hold of the public imagination: the international People’s Demands for Climate Justice, and in the U.S., the Green New Deal. But in order to move these plans from visions to actual policies that are just and effective, we must address the largest obstacle that lies between today’s status quo and a livable future for all: the influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy.

    • Fiat Chrysler Recalls 900,000+ Cars in U.S. and Canada for Excessive Nitrogen Oxide Emissions

      Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) is recalling around 965,000 gas-powered cars in the U.S. and Canada after they failed in-use emissions tests conducted by the company and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Reuters reported Wednesday.

      The company will need to replace the vehicles’ catalytic converters, which were shown to deteriorate during driving tests, leading to nitrogen oxide emissions above U.S. limits. Nitrogen oxide is associated with ozone and particulate matter pollution, which has serious health impacts.

    • Investigation Finds Southern California Edison Power Lines Sparked Massive, Deadly Thomas Fire

      Another California utility has been found responsible for sparking a deadly wildfire, according to the results of an investigation announced Wednesday.

      The massive Thomas Fire, which burned through 281,893 acres of Southern California in 2017, was sparked when two Southern California Edison (SCE) power lines slapped together on the night of Dec. 4, 2017, the Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) said.

    • To Clean Up the Planet, Clean Up Washington

      For decades, majorities of Americans have favored swift, meaningful action on climate change. They understand that we must transition away from dirty fuels and toward clean, renewable energy. Yet despite this overwhelming support, Congress has repeatedly failed to act.
      This jarring disconnect between what the public wants to see and what Washington is prepared to deliver doesn’t just threaten the health and safety of everyone in our country — it undermines the very principle of representative democracy.
      The reason that Congress hasn’t acted is an open secret.
      Follow the trail of the millions of dollars in campaign contributions from corporate polluters over the years, and you’ll find countless lawmakers who’ve worked to block action on climate change. The special interests that are hostile to our environment have designed a sophisticated toolkit for furthering their narrow agenda, while avoiding accountability.
      This assault on our democracy must end.
      That’s why the new House majority passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act — a bold suite of reforms that will transform our government and our political system for the better.
      Every provision of the bill is guided by one overarching imperative: restore the power and the voice of Americans who for too long have felt locked out of their own democracy.
      First, H.R. 1 will push back hard against the influence of big money in our politics. That means bringing more transparency to the world of campaign finance so that polluters can no longer use shadowy organizations to hide their political spending.
      In addition, by building a new system of citizen-owned elections that amplifies the power of small donors, H.R. 1 will reduce the financial influence of PACs and big corporations. The result will be environmental policy made for the public interest, not the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
      Second, H.R. 1 will make sure that public officials serve the public, not themselves or some hidden group of industry patrons.
      The bill extends conflict of interest rules to presidents and vice presidents and requires the release of their tax returns. It will prohibit members of Congress from serving on corporate boards and establish a code of ethics for the justices of the Supreme Court. And it will end the practice of corporations giving giant bonuses to employees who join the regulatory agencies overseeing them.

    • Ahead of Global #ClimateStrike She Inspired, 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

      “We have nominated Greta because the climate threat may be one of the most important causes of war and conflict,” Freddy Andre Oevstegaard, a parliamentary representative in Norway, told Norwegian newspaper VG.

    • UN Report Warns ‘Locked In’ Arctic Temperature Spikes Will Unleash Global Sea Level Rise

      The report was prepared by U.N. Environment (UNEP) and the Norwegian foundation GRID-Arendal, in close consultation with the Arctic Council. It is a product of the UNEP’s Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), a comprehensive assessment released Wednesday, as U.N. Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) is held in Nairobi, Kenya.

      Both Global Linkages and the GEO-6 underscore the vital importance of policymakers pursuing a coordinated global effort to drive down greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). As the report points out, “even if we stopped all emissions overnight, winter temperatures in the Arctic will still increase by 4 to 5°C compared to the late twentieth century.”

      While human-generated GHGs boost temperatures on a global scale, warming occurs faster in the Arctic. That’s because of a phenomenon called Arctic or polar amplification—which, the report explains, “causes higher temperatures near the poles compared to the planetary average because of a combination of feedback processes.”

    • The Arctic’s ticking ‘carbon bomb’ could blow up the Paris Agreement

      Even in a dream-come-true scenario where we manage to stop all the world’s carbon emissions overnight, the Arctic would inevitably get hotter and hotter. That’s according to a new report by U.N. Environment, which says the the region is already “locked in” to wintertime warming of 4 to 5 degrees C (7.2 to 9 degrees F) over temperatures of the late 1900s.

      The report, released at the U.N. Environment conference in Kenya on Wednesday, says that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the planetary average, and models show that it’s on track to become ice-free during the summer as soon as 2030.

      That’s the bad news. So here’s even worse news. The Arctic contains much of the world’s permafrost, which holds what the report calls a “sleeping giant” made of greenhouse gases. As the ground warms, the microbes in the soil wake up and start belching greenhouse gases. Estimates vary, but the report says 1.5 trillion tons of carbon dioxide lurk beneath the Earth’s permafrost. That’s more than 40 times as much CO2 as humans released into the atmosphere last year, and double the amount of the gas in the atmosphere today.

    • UN report finds temperature rise is ‘locked in’ for Arctic

      The Arctic is now “locked in” to experiencing unnatural levels of temperature rise by as early as 2050, according to a new United Nations environmental report out Wednesday.

      Dramatic temperature increases in the globe’s northernmost region, which is typically covered by permafrost, is unavoidable, according to the report released at the United Nations Environment Assembly.

      Even if countries were to meet the original goals of the Paris climate agreement, it would do nothing to stop Arctic winter temperatures from increasing 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 5 to 9 degrees Celsius by 2080, according to the report.

    • A Mother Swept Away by Climate Change

      Yes, it’s happening. It really is. And I’m not just thinking about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal and the support it’s getting from Democratic presidential candidates or the controversy it’s generating. I’m also thinking about Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s entry into the 2020 presidential race on a platform that boils down to a climate-change crusade. I’m thinking about the way Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — not your usual definition of a radical thinker or activist — is now planning to make global warming a key issue in the 2020 elections. I’m thinking about the fact that some Democrats suddenly are convinced the subject will be a winner on the campaign trail. I’m thinking about the fact that a book on climate change, David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth, has just hit the bestseller list. I’m thinking about the strike-for-the-future movement, all those Generation Z kids that TomDispatch regular Frida Berrigan writes about today who have started a wave of global protests about the increasingly degraded world they’re likely to inherit.

      And I’m also thinking about the fact that every new study of climate change seems to offer worse news about the fate of the planet — greater potential temperature rises; more drought and famine; larger population displacements; faster-melting Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets leading to radically rising sea levels; more unexpected climate feedback loops that will only heighten the ravages of global warming; record levels of greenhouse gases still entering the atmosphere; and, most recently, the unexpected phenomena of heat waves not on land (yes, they’re coming, too, and they’re likely to be devastating) but in the planet’s oceans that could, among other things, significantly reduce fish populations and so humanity’s food supplies yet more.

      In other words, don’t think of the recent rise in climate-change attentiveness and concern among Americans as a passing thing. It’s not for the simplest of reasons: climate change itself isn’t passing. Human-caused it may be, but it’s not faintly part of human history in terms of its potential time scale, and whatever effects we’re already feeling are essentially nothing compared to what’s likely to come. So in a country that, in 2016, elected history’s greatest crew of climate-change aiders and abettors, men who may one day be seen as the worst criminals in history, something’s finally starting to happen, even if just what it is still isn’t exactly clear. Under the circumstances, parents like Frida Berrigan have a tough job ahead. They’re going to have to explain to their children just how we adults have so royally screwed up this planet, the one that should have been their birthright. And that, as she makes clear today, is the necessary conversation from hell.

    • Trump Uses ‘Art of Distraction’ to Push Through Dangerous Policies Like Offshore Drilling, Interior Official Admits

      Confirming what a number of Trump critics have pointed out about the president’s ability to pass some of his most dangerous policies while stoking public outrage about unrelated matters, a top Interior Department official shared with fossil fuel executives recently how this strategy has been beneficial to corporate polluters.

      According to the Guardian, at a meeting of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) in February, assistant secretary for land and minerals management Joe Balash told the crowd that Trump’s ability to distract the public has made it possible for the administration to forge ahead with a plan to open up the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas drilling, likely beginning in the coming weeks.

  • Finance

    • Of Course College Admissions Rigged for the Rich. The Whole Economic System Is

      The children of working stiffs learned a brutal lesson this week as federal prosecutors criminally charged rich people with buying admission to elite universities for their less-than-stellar children.

      The lesson is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how smart or talented you are, a dumb, lazy rich kid is going to beat you.

      It’s crucial that everyone who is not a wealthy movie star, hedge fund executive, or corporate CEO—that is, 99 percent of all Americans—sees this college admissions scandal for what it really is: a microcosm of the larger, corrupt system that works against working people, squashing their chances for advancement.

      This system is the reason that rich people and corporations got massive tax breaks last year while the 99 percent got paltry ones. It is the reason the federal minimum wage and the overtime threshold are stuck at poverty levels. It is the reason labor unions have dwindled over the past four decades.

    • Breaking up Big Tech: Advocates spar over how to trim sails of technology giants at SXSW [iophk: Liz Warren "already in Microsoft's pocket"]
    • A Wall Street Mini-Tax Could Benefit the Poor and Reduce Public Debt

      With great fanfare, politicians on the left are thinking big on tax reform: a 70 percent rate on incomes over $10 million, a wealth tax on the super-rich, estate taxes as high as 77 percent. With no fanfare at all, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has made the case for thinking small. According to the CBO, a mini-tax on sales of stocks, bonds and other holdings could boost revenues by scores of billions a year.

      The estimate came in December 2018 when the CBO released its list of options for cutting the federal deficit. For the period 2019-2028, a Wall Street tax of 0.1 percent would bring an extra $777 billion into the Treasury. Market declines were predicted early on, along with lower capital gains and lower trading volumes. Even so, after factoring in all the headwinds, the tax still produced average annual revenue increases of almost $78 billion. The numbers rose as the years went by: the inflow totaled $534.5 billion in the closing half-decade, compared to $242.2 billion from 2019-2023.

      The tax is called a financial transactions tax, “FTT” for short. The United States had one from 1914 until 1965; it could be coming around again as lawmakers try to cope with “the defining challenge of our time,” income inequality.

      Such a levy would instantly become the single biggest non-income tax on wealth in America. Five days a week and after-hours, the financial markets execute millions of trades involving billions of shares. The huge majority belongs to taxpayers in the upper rungs. Given the volume and the value of the trades, even a tiny tax would generate giant revenues. The Institute for Policy Studies, in a Q&A on the tax, said the burden “would fall overwhelmingly on short-term speculators. For most pension funds and traditional stock-and-bond-holders, the cost would be negligible—in fact less than typical portfolio management fees.”

    • We Will Not Rest Until Housing Justice Is Done

      I have been homeless myself, and experienced housing instability my whole life. Together with other People’s Action members from around the country who are directly affected by our nation’s housing emergency, I met with Senator Warren’s team on Capitol Hill last December to discuss this bill. We liked what we heard, but there were certain parts of the legislation we definitely wanted to improve.

      We shared our stories, gave feedback to the Senator’s team, and have worked with them for three months to improve this bill, which she first introduced last Fall. The version Senator Warren introduced yesterday includes important changes, and is revitalized with the support of Congressional Black Caucus and the outspoken progressives who took the House back for Democrats in November’s elections.

      This new version reflects what’s possible when grassroots leaders like us get to be at the table, and participate in the creation of policy that impacts our lives.

      I live in Los Angeles, and was homeless for two years as a child, starting at age six, when my mom sought to escape domestic violence. We lived out of a car, because my mom and I had nowhere to go. We had nobody to help us, and we didn’t know about resources that might have been available.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • George Conway Urges ‘Serious Inquiry’ Into Trump’s Mental Health After Latest Lie

      The husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway slams the “brazen, pathological mendacity” of the president.

    • Beto O’Rourke Is Running for President

      After a campaign in which he came tantalizingly close to winning a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas has announced that he’s running for president, joining an ever-growing field of Democratic candidates looking to deny President Donald Trump a second term.

    • Beto O’Rourke Announces 2020 Democratic Presidential Bid

      Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced Thursday that he’ll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, ending months of intense speculation over whether he’d try to translate his newfound political celebrity into a White House bid.

      Until he challenged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, O’Rourke was little known outside his hometown of El Paso. But the Spanish-speaking 46-year-old former punk rocker became a sensation during a campaign that used grassroots organizing and social media savvy to mobilize young voters and minorities. He got within 3 percentage points of upsetting Cruz in the nation’s largest red state — and shattered fundraising records in the process — immediately fueling chatter that he could have higher ambitions.

    • Good-Bye Electoral College? Popular Vote Movement Gaining Steam

      There’s new momentum around the National Popular Vote movement, where states will award Electoral College votes to elect the president based on which candidate has won the most votes nationwide—instead of today’s state-by-state winner-take-all system.

      “It does have new momentum, because there was a [recent] period starting with the second Obama election when Democrats bought into this blue-wall theory” that their political party had a lock on the White House, said John Koza, a former Stanford University scientist who co-founded the National Popular Vote project in 2006.

      The reform is based on states joining an interstate compact, a legally binding vehicle where states make agreements among themselves despite a national federal government. In this case, states, which the U.S. Constitution empowers to oversee its Electoral College process, agree to award their presidential votes to the national popular vote winner. As of early 2019, the project was two-thirds of the way toward reaching the threshold needed for a 270-vote Electoral College majority, but more states are poised to join.

      Last week, Delaware’s Senate passed legislation to join the compact, and sent that bill to its House where it has passed twice before. In Colorado, where one legislative chamber was first to pass National Popular Vote (NPV) legislation in 2006, a compact bill recently passed both chambers and is heading to a governor ready to sign it. New Mexico’s Senate just passed the bill and sent it to its House. A bill currently has bipartisan support in Michigan and Oregon.

    • Born to Run? As Beto Enters 2020 Race, Progressives Still Unclear Where Texas Democrat Stands on Key Priorities

      As the New York Times put it, “in a primary so far defined by big-ticket policy ideas, like the economic agendas of Senators Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.] and Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.], Mr. O’Rourke enters without a signature proposal that might serve as the ideological anchor of his bid.”

      On Twitter, the Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson pointed out that O’Rourke does not yet have policy positions listed on his official campaign website. The Post’s Jeff Stein asked O’Rourke’s team about “his key policy priorites,” and has yet to hear back.

    • Impeaching Trump: Pelosi Says It’s “Not Worth It,” But Progressive Democrats Push Ahead

      Democratic lawmakers are continuing to push for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking out against impeachment in an interview earlier this week. Impeachment rumors have been swirling since the Democrats regained control of the House in January. Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said last week that she will formally introduce articles of impeachment this month. We speak with John Bonifaz, an attorney and political activist specializing in constitutional law and voting rights. He is the co-founder and president of Free Speech for People, one of the organizations calling for Trump’s impeachment.

    • When a Bill to Revive Democracy Is Called an Ode to Socialism

      The New York Times’ editorialists last week called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the only “roadblock” preventing a vote on the For the People Act, the sweeping voting, ethics, and election rights legislation House Democrats passed on Friday. That’s true. But the fight is broader than that. The early Republican response to the popular bill suggests the GOP sees it as an existential threat to white supremacy in an era of changing demographics. This helps explain why they would so eagerly oppose a measure that would make it easier for American citizens to vote and harder for their elected officials to hoard power.

      For now, McConnell and company are trying to frame the debate over the bill as an ordinary partisan battle over a piece of traditional legislation. But that’s not what the bill is. Yes, it raises legitimate constitutional questions of campaign finance and election law. But it’s a form of meta legislation that would affect the way all subsequent federal legislation is debated and enacted. And, if enacted, the For the People Act would force Republicans to compete for votes on the merits of their ideas: Republican policy choices like opposing background checks on gun sales or opposing the fight against climate change that are historically unpopular.

      The GOP’s initial line of attack won’t last long beyond the corridors of the White House and Fox News. It can’t. It’s just not strong enough and it insults the intelligence of the American people. I mean, for example, there is no rational policy argument at this point not to make Election Day a federal holiday. And so, sometime soon, I bet we start seeing darker attacks on this legislation. Attacks aimed at the white Republican base; one that explicitly seeks to frame the bill as an attempt to transfer power from white Americans to Americans of color. That’s precisely the “power” McConnell has in mind when he calls the bill a “power grab.”

    • Marie Antoinette Stages a Comeback on Capitol Hill

      More than 225 years after losing her head to a guillotine, Marie Antoinette has made a grand re-entrance into the halls of power.

      With her reattached head holding up a frothy mound of white curls, she descended on Capitol Hill on March 14 to attend a House Oversight Committee hearing. The star witness: billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

      Ross is just one of numerous Trump administration officials who’ve distinguished themselves with statements so cluelessly elitist as to make comparisons with the French Queen unavoidable.

    • ‘Marie Antoinette’ Comes to House Hearing So Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Has a Partner in Arms

      Marie Antoinette traveled over two centuries into the future to express solidarity with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at a House hearing Thursday.

      “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and several other members of Trump World had #LetThemEatCake moments during the government shutdown,” said progressive advocacy group American Family Voices in a tweet, referencing the famous quote attributed to the 18th century French queen. “We decided they should meet their inspiration in person.”

      Among the “let them eat cake” moments noted by the group was when Ross expressed confusion as to why some federal workers were forced to rely on food banks and homeless shelters for basic necessities during the recent partial government shutdown.

      “I felt I must meet this man who clearly draws so much inspiration from me,” Antoinette said in a spoof interview.

    • DHS’s Own Statistics Show That It Is Lying About a Border-Security Crisis

      Last week, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security and Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, testified at the same time in different congressional hearings. They seemed to be in a competition to see who could be more misleading about border realities.

      Nielsen claimed that she lacked “context” to address what Politifact has determined to be false: President Trump’s claim in January that a border wall is justified since there were “never so many apprehensions ever in our history.” McAleenan continued to defend the administration’s obsession with preventing Central American families and children from applying for asylum, asking Congress to lengthen their detention and end the fair process they are due under U.S. and international law.

      What dominated both hearings – one before the House Homeland Security Committee, and the other before the Senate Judiciary Committee — was newly released data by CBP showing an increase in the number of people arriving at the southwest border. As the Trump administration uses these vulnerable migrants to justify its racist attacks on asylum seekers, there are three key points that you won’t hear in the administration’s propaganda.

      First, the demographics of border arrivals have shifted. Those crossing the border are increasingly families and unaccompanied children — they make up 61 percent in the new data. The number of apprehensions of individuals who are not juveniles continues to fall. This new reality makes Border Patrol agents’ mission different from what it had been because the majority of apprehensions now are not people evading detection. Instead, they are vulnerable families and children turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents so that they can seek asylum protection.

    • Senate Rejects Trump Border Emergency as Republicans Defect

      The Republican-run Senate rejected President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southwest border on Thursday, setting up a veto fight and dealing him a conspicuous rebuke as he tested how boldly he could ignore Congress in pursuit of his highest-profile goal.

      The Senate voted 59-41 to cancel Trump’s February proclamation of a border emergency, which he invoked to spend $3.6 billion more for border barriers than Congress had approved. Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in defying Trump in a showdown many GOP senators had hoped to avoid because he commands die-hard loyalty from millions of conservative voters who could punish defecting lawmakers in next year’s elections.

      With the Democratic-controlled House’s approval of the same resolution last month, Senate passage sends it to Trump. He has shown no reluctance to casting his first veto to advance his campaign exhortation to “Build the Wall,” and it seems certain Congress will lack the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override him.

    • ‘Major Rebuke of Trump’s Authoritarianism’: Senate Votes to Terminate National Emergency

      Rights groups celebrated a “historic rebuke” of an unconstitutional power grab Thursday after the Senate voted to terminate President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration by an overwhelming bipartisan margin.

      “Today’s vote is a major blow to President Donald Trump’s autocratic ambitions,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The American people don’t want a racist border wall, and by overwhelming numbers they oppose Trump’s emergency declaration. They rose up and made their voices clear.”

      The final vote count was 59-41, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to pass the resolution of disapproval.

    • BBC scores first interview with one of 13 ‘Russian trolls’ indicted by Robert Mueller last year

      It’s been more than a year since the U.S. Justice Department indicted 13 “Russian trolls” for interfering in America’s 2016 presidential election. Despite this publicity and the passage of time, the entrepreneurs, translators, analysts, and office managers whom Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation linked to the “Internet Research Agency” (IRA) have remained largely out of reach to journalists in Russia. With the publication of Mueller’s long-awaited report now imminent, one of the “trolls” has suddenly agreed to an interview with the BBC Russian Service. Meduza summarizes what he said.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Down the Rabbit Hole of Political Intolerance in Silicon Valley

      Absolutely. As I said above, I spent several years on this book, and that’s largely because the final two were spent going down this rabbit hole of political intolerance in Silicon Valley. The deeper I delved into this topic and the more people I spoke with, it became very clear to me that what happened with Palmer—from the inaccurate reporting, to the online mob, to the professional discrimination—was not an isolated instance; in fact, part of the reason I focused so heavily on this was because his situation seemed to so perfectly personify Life Circa 2016. And the other reason I focused so heavily on this was because Facebook is one of the most powerful companies in the world—a company built on an ethos of “openness” and transparency”; who literally hangs up posters on campus with the slogans “Always Assume Positive Intent” and “Bring Your Authentic Self to Work”—and, well, given that Facebook has ambitions of owning virtual reality, I think their actions in actual reality are incredibly important to assess and evaluate.

    • As Russians protested ‘Internet isolation’ last weekend, hackers launched DNS attacks against Yandex, exploiting flaws in the government’s censorship system

      Several major Russian Internet companies, including Yandex and the news outlet RBC, suffered massive network attacks this week that were made possible by vulnerabilities in the system the federal government uses to block websites. Sources told RBC that the perpetrators carried out DNS attacks, hijacking domain name system servers and domain registrars to direct traffic away from legal websites, like Yandex, to IP addresses that have been blacklisted by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state censor.

      During the attacks, several small Internet service providers blocked access to a few of Yandex’s IP addresses, sources told RBC. Major ISPs utilized more sophisticated censorship methods, filtering the traffic to Yandex’s servers using deep packet inspection, which caused the website to load more slowly than normal.

      Yandex told Meduza that it doesn’t consider the DNS hijacking to constitute a cyberattack. “This isn’t an attack, but an exploitation of existing flaws in the mechanism for administering the block list,” spokespeople said, pointing out that any website could fall victim to these defects in Roskomnadzor’s procedures.

    • Texas Senator Who’s Experienced Some Press Criticism Introduces Bill To Gut State’s Anti-SLAPP Law

      Everything’s bigger in Texas. Even the free speech protections. Texas has one of the strongest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation. These protections against bogus, speech-chilling lawsuits are so big they even covered a US President who complained libel laws in America were too restrictive, resulting in a swift dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought against him over a fairly innocuous, if invective-loaded, tweet.

      Some Texas legislators like the bigness of their home state, but not so much the anti-SLAPP law that deters bogus lawsuits filed to silence critics. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press brings news that a bill that would gut a substantial amount of Texas’ anti-SLAPP protections has been introduced into the state Senate.

    • Critical Free Speech Protections Are Under Attack in Texas

      EFF has long been concerned about these types of lawsuits, called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs, as they use legal claims as a pretext to punish individuals exercising their First Amendment rights. That’s why EFF supports efforts to limit or prevent SLAPPs.

      28 states have so-called “anti-SLAPP” laws, which provide invaluable protections to speakers exercising their First Amendment rights, both online and off. While the laws vary, they typically allow the target of the SLAPP suit to quickly get a court to decide whether the case can go forward, and often require the party bringing the claims to demonstrate they have legitimate legal claims. Anti-SLAPP laws also often allow a victorious target of a SLAPP suit to recover attorneys’ fees from the party who brought the meritless claims.

      Without anti-SLAPP laws, plaintiffs could bring a meritless claim against speakers that they have no intention of winning—just to stop the speech or inflict financial stress by forcing those targeted by the suits to pay for attorneys to defend against meritless claims.

      Texas has one of the premier anti-SLAPP laws in the country: the Texas Citizens Participation Act, or TCPA. The law currently applies to a broad range of protected First Amendment activity, including discussing matters of public importance or speaking at a government proceeding. A bill introduced earlier this month, H.B. 2730, would gut these and other important protections.

      The attempt to substantially weaken and narrow the TCPA is particularly concerning because, since its passage in 2011, the law has disposed of numerous lawsuits filed against Texans who were exercising their free speech rights.

    • Thai Government Uses Fake News Law To Lock Up Opposing Party Leaders

      Thailand’s government continues to make life miserable for its citizens. Pretending mass censorship and broken encryption are just the price citizens have to pay for a “secure” nation, the government has turned the internet into a minefield for critics and political opponents. This is all on top of a lese majeste law that criminalizes badmouthing the king, which would be horrible enough on its own.

      Thanks to the leader of the free world, the term “fake news” is now being deployed to put people in real jails for sharing content of dubious origin or not in alignment with the official narrative. Shutting down criticism by deploying anti-fake news laws is a horrendous abuse of government power. But even legitimate uses of these laws are still troubling. Should the sharing of actually fake news be a criminal offense? The Thai government says yes.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Facebook Facing Criminal Probe Over Data Sharing

      Last October, Mark Zuckerberg was still optimistic. “We have great products here that people love,” the Facebook founder said during an earnings call. The social network’s year, however, hasn’t been so rosy. As Vox explained in December, Facebook “has found itself at the center of a growing storm over a wide array of issues, ranging from data privacy to Russian meddling to fake news,” and despite multiple apologies, “the scandals keep coming.”

      In June, The New York Times reported that Facebook entered into data-sharing partnerships with such smartphone makers as Apple and Samsung, selling access to Facebook users’ data, often without their knowledge or consent. This week, the Times reports, those partnerships are under criminal investigation, as a New York grand jury subpoenaed records from at least two of the 150 companies with whom Facebook had agreements, according to sources who requested anonymity.

    • ‘Zoink’: Facebook Facing Criminal Charges Over Data Sharing Deals

      The New York Times reported Wednesday evening that a federal grand jury in New York issued subpoenas to the company at some point over the last few months, though, as the Times pointed out, it was unclear exactly when.

      What is clear, however, is that Facebook’s data sharing deals violated users’ privacy and that the activity may rise to the standard of criminality. It’s possible that the deals violated the terms of a 2011 consent decree the company made with the Federal Trade Commission.

    • Facebook’s Data Deals Are Under Criminal Investigation

      A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users.

      The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with the world’s dominant social media platform. The agreements, previously reported in The New York Times, let the companies see users’ friends, contact information and other data, sometimes without consent. Facebook has phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years.

    • Facebook Is Under Criminal Investigation Over Data Sharing Deals: Report

      Facebook has gained a lot of negative spotlights for all the data breach scandals it has got its head into. Adding more to the scrutiny, the social networking site is now under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors, as per a report by The New York Times.

      It is suggested that a New York jury has summoned records from two of the major smartphone makers, according to two unnamed sources. These two companies stand in the list of around 150 tech companies which have been involved with Facebook to access millions of users’ data. Following this, Facebook ended most of the collaborations over the past two years.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Ontario wants to ban phones in the classroom. Critics wonder how that will be enforced

      The province, according to information released Tuesday by Education Minister Lisa Thompson, will ban the use of phones during instructional time across Ontario by the start of the coming school year.

    • Artificial Morality

      With this contract, the letter goes on, Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development. . . . The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”

      This revolt was what Smith was responding to when he said he believed in a “strong defense,” implying that moral clichés rather than money are what drive the decisions of large corporations, or at least this particular large corporation. Somehow his words, which he attempted to convey as reflective and deeply considered, are not convincing — not when juxtaposed with a defense contract worth nearly half a billion dollars.

    • Rights Group Charges Trump’s Prolonged Detention of Children ‘Completely Illegal’

      An immigrant rights group on Wednesday filed a civil rights complaint against the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that the Trump administration is blatantly flouting the Flores agreement—the law that dictates how long the U.S. government can keep children in custody.

      The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) says that five children have been held at a detention center in Karnes City, Texas for at least 41 days, with at least one held for nearly three months. The prolonged detention is a clear violation of Flores, which prohibits the government from holding children for longer than 20 days, the group argued.

    • Until We Reckon: Mass Incarceration, Violence & the Radical Possibilities of Restorative Justice

      A staggering 2.2 million people are locked up in America’s sprawling prison system, and more than half of those currently confined in state prisons have been convicted of violent crime. In order to radically reduce the prison population and transform criminal justice in this country, author and community organizer Danielle Sered argues that reformers must reckon with violent crime and come up with radically new ways to address it. She lays out a path for this transformation in her new unflinching book, “Until We Reckon.” Sered has spent nearly a decade working directly with people that have committed violent acts and survivors of violence as the executive director of Common Justice, a Brooklyn-based organization that offers alternatives to incarceration for people charged with violent felonies. Her experience anchors her book as she calls for a complete overhaul of the way we’ve been taught to think about crime, punishment and justice. We speak with Sered about restorative justice and how incarceration perpetuates the very violence it is meant to curb.

    • Stop Making Women Apologize

      It’s something we’re taught at an early age — to be nice and polite as all young girls should be, reinforcing gender norms that began at this country’s inception.

      Our culture is one that silences women in order to uphold patriarchy. “I’m sorry” has become a filler in the English language. Whether asking for what we need, or stating our opinion, women often begin with an apology for having the audacity to speak at all.

      A study done in 2010 confirmed that women apologize more than men. The research speculated that women were “more concerned with the emotional experiences of others” — no doubt a symptom of our socialization.

      In 2014, Pantene put out an ad campaign entitled “Not Sorry,” which highlighted the various ways women issue apologies almost immediately in most settings — at work, at home, even with strangers.

      It seems no matter how far we’ve come in the era of #MeToo, women are expected to deflect, give excuse, and provide explanation with just two simple words: “I’m sorry.”

      Holding oneself accountable for genuine wrongdoing should be the norm. For women, however, our “wrongdoing” is often simply our attempts to take up space and have a seat at the table.

      To remain “collegial,” for example, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was apologetic throughout her entire testimony against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She was testifying about a sexual assault against her, yet she was the one apologizing.

    • Saudi Women’s Rights Activists Receive ‘Freedom to Write’ Award as They Stand Trial in Riyadh

      PEN America, which works to defend free expression globally through the advancement of literature and human rights, announced Thursday that imprisoned writers Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan will be honored with the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at the PEN America Literary Gala in May.

      “These gutsy women have challenged one of the world’s most notoriously misogynist governments,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement, “inspiring the world with their demand to drive, to govern their own lives, and to liberate all Saudi women from a form of medieval bondage that has no place in the 21st century.”

      “We are proud to honor these drivers of change,” Nossel added, “for their fearless words and actions, and to send a strong signal that international pressure on the Saudi Kingdom to respect dissent and adhere to international norms of free expression will not relent.”

    • Head of Rhode Island’s 911 System Is Removed From Post

      Col. James Manni, who took over as superintendent of the agency last month, said in a statement released Wednesday night that Scungio’s certification from the Red Cross to teach basic first aid and CPR and to operate an automated external defibrillator, also known as an AED, expired in February 2016. Any employees Scungio trained since then do not have valid certification.

      A spokesperson for the state police said the agency plans to properly certify all 32 of the center’s call takers and eight managers by next Wednesday.

      Rhode Island State Police Lt. Michael McGlynn will take over as acting director of 911.

    • Saudi Arabia: Women Activists Persecuted Under Bogus Charges

      The prosecution of 11 women activists before a Criminal Court in Riyadh for their human rights work and contact with international organizations is an appalling escalation of the Saudi authorities’ crackdown on peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

      Some of the women were charged with promoting women’s rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system. The women were also charged with contacting international organizations, foreign media and other activists, including their contact with Amnesty International

    • Stop and Frisks Plummeted Under New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, but Racial Disparities Haven’t Budged

      Stops dropped a reported 98 percent under New York’s current mayor, but people of color are still disproportionately targeted by police.
      We’ve come a long way since 2011.

      That year, New York Police Department officers made nearly 700,000 stops as part of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s aggressive and controversial stop-and-frisk program. Six years later in 2017, under current-Mayor Bill de Blasio, the NYPD reported 11,629 stops, a 98 percent decrease from 2011.

      Though the NYCLU believes the actual number of stops is considerably higher because officers are failing to document many stops, current stop activity undoubtedly is a small fraction of what was occurring during the Bloomberg years.

      One of the keys to this dramatic decline was transparency. In 2007, the New York Civil Liberties Union successfully sued to get access to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk database, which contained information about the stops that were taking place and who was being stopped. Then in 2012, we released a report analyzing NYPD stop-and-frisk activity in 2011 with a level of detail never before available to the public.

    • SA must take the lead in legalising euthanasia

      Human dignity is the essence of what defines us as individuals and as members of our respective societies and communities.

      There is no us or me without dignity, or botho or ubuntu, as referred to in the Sesotho and Nguni language groups in South Africa.

    • Death Penalty Debate Takes a Turn Toward Sanity

      When news broke Tuesday night that California Gov. Gavin Newsom had decided to sign an executive order imposing a moratorium on the death penalty in the Golden State, I was staggered. My heart pounded, and my mind raced back to all the years I spent as a young attorney representing defendants in capital cases—a physically exhausting and emotionally draining task, and one that, at times, seemed utterly futile.

      Now that the order has been signed and I’ve had an opportunity to review it, I’m stunned by the scope and honesty of the governor’s action. Not only does it grant reprieves to the state’s 737 death row inmates, it repeals the state’s lethal-injection protocol and will close the infamous execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

      The reasoning Newsom offered for his decision is especially compelling. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong and as Governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual,” he said in a press release issued by his office. “Our death penalty system has been, by all measures, a failure. It has discriminated against defendants who are mentally ill, black and brown, or can’t afford expensive legal representation. It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Most of all, the death penalty is absolute. It’s irreversible and irreparable in the event of human error.”

    • At 89, Would-Be Ford Assassin Sara Jane Moore Back Behind Bars

      Sara Jane Moore, the woman who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975 and missed him by six inches, is back in prison after 12 years of freedom.

      According to officials, the 89-year-old violated her lifetime parole by leaving the country without permission, even though she had been granted a passport. Her name was placed on a list of parole violators and she was arrested at Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 23, after returning from Israel.

      She has a long history of not letting rules get in the way of what she wants to do. Her failure to follow her parole conditions fits with her behavior in prison, where she continually butted heads with prison authorities and spent many days in solitary confinement.

    • Arkansas Senate Unanimously Approves A Conviction Requirement For Asset Forfeiture

      Some more good news about asset forfeiture comes our way, courtesy of Lauren Krisai. It appears the Arkansas senate overwhelmingly agrees the abusive state of forfeiture it oversees cannot continue. The state senate unanimously passed an asset forfeiture reform bill that would institute a conviction requirement for seized assets, preventing law enforcement from policing for profit.

      The bill would basically outlaw civil asset forfeiture in its current form, replacing it with criminal asset forfeiture. And it would prevent cops from using rinky-dink criminal charges to take property away from state residents.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The web we broke.

      If you’re not familiar, WebAIM is a non-profit that’s worked for years to make the web more accessible. They’ve written software and disability simulators, shared in-depth surveys of users with disabilities, and generally published more articles and resources than you can shake a stick at—all to help us do our job a bit better, and to help more people access the web.

      At the end of February, WebAIM published an accessibility analysis of the top one million home pages. The results are, in a word, abysmal. Eric Bailey covered this last week, far better than I will, but here were a few highlights for me: [...]

    • Why, Exactly, Do We Still Trust Telecom Megamerger ‘Synergy’ Promises?

      America has a very Charlie Brown and Lucy football approach to its relationship with megamergers, especially in telecom. Time after time, major tech and telecom companies promise consumers and employees the earth, sea, and sky if they’re allowed to become bigger and more powerful. And time after time these promised “synergies,” jobs, and expanded investment promises wind up being empty. In merger after merger (especially in telecom), it’s been made repeatedly clear these megadeals only really benefit investors and executives. For everybody else, they’re an expensive shitshow.

      The primary culprit continues to be the country’s waning interest in meaningful antitrust enforcement, Luddite Judges, and the steady lobbyist erosion of antitrust itself. That was proven loudly when the DOJ recently tried to prove the obvious when it challenged AT&T’s $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The government repeatedly provided economic models showcasing that the megadeal would immediately result in higher prices for consumers and competitors alike. But a lobbyist-dictated narrowing of what constitutes a competitive threat often leaves government lawyers trapped within narrow corridors of economic theory to prove painfully obvious points.

    • ‘Don’t Sell Out to Big Cable’: Internet Defenders Warn Democrats Against Watering Down Net Neutrality Bill

      Internet defenders are raising alarm and warning against telecom-backed sabotage after several Democratic lawmakers signaled they would be willing to water down their party’s net neutrality legislation in order to appease Republican objections.

      “The message from net neutrality supporters and the grassroots has been simple: pass a clean bill out of committee to keep this a simple up or down vote on restoring strong net neutrality rules,” Josh Tabish, a tech fellow at the digital rights group Fight for the Future, told Motherboard. “There’s really no excuse. They have the votes to do this.”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Finland: Supreme Court Rules on Information Disclosures in Patent Litigations

      The Finnish Supreme Court resolved in February 2019 on the matter of whether or not the preconditions for precautionary measures were at hand in a patent law infringement case.


      The Finnish Code of Judicial Procedure (4/1734) stipulates that a person may refuse to testify regarding a commercial or professional secret, unless very important reasons, taking into consideration the nature of the case, the significance of the evidence in respect of deciding the case, and the consequences of presenting it as well as the other circumstances require such testimony. This meant that the Court had to make an interpretation on the content of the term “very important reason”. The Court concluded that since the requested documents are specified and related to a product group directly infringing on the patent rights of the applicant, there is a very important reason to present the information. The Court (partly) approved the precautionary measure and granted the applicant the right to become acquainted with the material related to the precautionary measure with the bailiff. The presented ruling can perhaps best be seen as an indication of slow movement towards recognising more open document disclosure requests in connection with patent litigations. It will further be interesting to see how these various specific conditions such as the very important reason in this case are interpreted in the future so we will continue to monitor the developments.

    • Claims are Invalid (not Patents)

      The two paragraph decision in this case is designed to serve as a reminder that patent validity/infringement is considered on a claim-by-claim basis.

      RPost sued Sophos alleging infringement its U.S. Patent No. 8,504,628. However, during the litigation RPost filed infringement contentions that focused only on claims 14, 19, 24, 26, 27 and 30. In its invalidity argument, Sophos directed its attention only to these asserted claims. However, the district court wrote more broadly “that the ‘628 patent is invalid.”

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed the summary judgment of invalidity with the caveat that the district court’s opinion should be limited only to the asserted claims.

    • Boalick and Bonilla appointed as PTAB Chief and Deputy Chief

      Congratulations to Scott Boalick and Jacqueline Bonilla for their appointments as Chief Judge and Deputy Chief Judge for the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Judges Boalick and Bonilla have already been doing the work since September 2018 in their roles as Acting Chief and Deputy Chief. Earlier this year, Dir. Iancu also appointed Thomas Krause as USPTO Solicitor. These three individuals are each highly qualified with deep intellectual property and government experience.

    • Apple obtains summary judgment against Qualcomm, can keep billions of dollars: no breach of contract by responding to antitrust regulators

      Qualcomm now has to digest a summary judgment order adverse to its interests in the Southern District of California, where Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel has determined that Qualcomm cannot claw back incentive payments made to Apple under a Business Cooperation and Patent Agreement (BCPA) based on allegations of Apple being responsible for some of Qualcomm’s antitrust worries in the U.S., the EU, and South Korea, or based on Apple allegedly having induced its contract manufacturers to underreport royalties.

      Considering that $1 billion out of the roughly $30 billion Apple and its contract manufacturers are seeking from Qualcomm in that San Diego action relates to Qualcomm having stopped such payments at some point, the amount at stake in this summary judgment context must be multiple billions of dollars as the BCPA took effect at the beginning of the 2013, so the period with respect to which Qualcomm was trying to claw back money must be a lot longer than the one during which Apple believes it should have received another billion dollars that Qualcomm withheld–simply because there were no signs of a dispute during most of that period. Apple’s original 2017 complaint said in its § 160 that “Qualcomm conditioned billions of dollars on Apple’s silence before courts and regulators about Qualcomm’s business practices” (emphasis added).

    • Copyrights

      • Paris Tribunal strikes again and guts Google’s T&C’s…including its copyright clauses for user-generated content

        Readers will recall the decision of the Paris Tribunal, which nullified a significant portion of Twitter’s terms and conditions on the basis of French privacy data protection and copyright law (see here and for previous post see here). Last month, it was the terms and conditions of Google that were subjected to judicial scrutiny, in a decision handed by the same Tribunal on 12 February 2019 (decision: Paris Tribunal (Tribunal de Grande Instance), UFC-Que Choisir v Google Inc (12 February 2019), see here for the decision in French).

        As in the Twitter case, the instant proceedings were brought by the French consumer association “UFC Que Choisir?” (UFC). UFC applied to the Paris Tribunal that Google’s terms be declared unlawful in light of French contract and privacy law and data protection regulation.

      • SaReGaMa Pa-rdon Me, You Have the Wrong Address: On the Perils and Pitfalls of Notice and Takedown

        The universe surely has a strange sense of humour.

        Imagine our surprise when we received a notice from Google Inc., that they had de-indexed one of blogs after a complaint was filed against it by Saregama India Pvt. Ltd. On December 13, 2018, Google informed us that:

        “Google has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that some of the material found on your site allegedly infringes upon the copyrights of others. Although some of these URLs may not be available in our search results now, we are retaining these notices and will act on them if at some point in the future we do crawl these pages for inclusion in search results.”

        For further information, we turned to the Lumen database, a wonderful and necessary third-party takedown notice database maintained by the folks at the Berkman-Klein Centre. Here, we saw that Saregama, on November 28, had sent Google a list of 99 problematic URLs, of which ours was one. In particular, Saregama (in its notice to Google) claimed that:

      • Bogus DMCA Takedown Targeting Indian Copyright Blog Demonstrates The Problems Of Notice And Takedown

        The blog further points out that this problem is likely to get worse, not better. We’ve already been talking about how Article 13 could soon require automated takedowns and content monitoring, India is exploring a very similar law to put more liability on the platforms to not allow any infringement at all. In such cases, the problem becomes much, much worse, and some content may never be allowed to be uploaded at all, even if it’s perfectly legal.

      • Rebuilding the ARC: America’s Largest Music Collection Needs Your Help

        The day the music died is a lie. Music never dies. It’s the one thing our minds protect at all costs. If only our wallets were so loyal. Now they have a chance to be: This week, the largest popular music collection in America (3 million recordings!) is, for the first time, asking the public for financial help. Is New York’s legacy as a music town worth $100,000? That’s the question the Archive of Contemporary Music is asking.

The EPO and the USPTO Are Granting Fake Patents on Software, Knowing That Courts Would Reject These

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 9:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Examiners play a game of Whack-a-Mole against a surge of abstract patent applications


Summary: Office management encourages applicants to send over patent applications that are laughable while depriving examiners the freedom and the time they need to reject these; it means that loads of bogus patents are being granted, enshrined as weapons that trolls can use to extort small companies outside the courtroom

In lieu with 35 U.S.C. § 101/Alice (SCOTUS), the USPTO can’t quite grant patents on algorithms (but it does anyway). In lieu with the EPC, the EPO must reject all software patents in Europe. António Campinos promotes surrogate names for these. Here is a new example from earlier today (just a few hours ago). This EPO tweet says: “What impact do you think fourth industrial revolution technologies such as #AI and #blockchain will have on the #patent system? Tell us by tomorrow…”

“One just needs to pick the glorified (buzz)words and mislead examiners with fancy terms.”The EPO uses three different buzzwords and hype waves to promote verboten patents without saying the words “software patents” (it’s illegal). 4IR, AI and blockchain would be anything with algorithms (code), database (information system) and so on. One just needs to pick the glorified (buzz)words and mislead examiners with fancy terms. They lack the time needed to assess and come up with grounds for rejection.

What will happen when such patents are presented in court with well-funded opposition to them? This is already happening in the US. “When Software Patents are continually invalidated at court – that says it all,” said this one person. “Europe will be next (to see software patents dying by the hundreds of thousands after the EPO granted these),” I replied to this person. As it turns out, based on yesterday’s figures, 80% of lawsuits or “4 of the 5 patent suits filed yesterday were filed by patent trolls…”

Josh from the CCIA quoted Iancu as saying that the new 101 guidance is “working well at the PTO.”

“If your guidance works well at the PTO,” Josh remarked, “but the issued patents might not hold up in court… is that good guidance?”

“Iancu comes from a law firm where it is all about money rather than justice,” I responded. This is what also happens at the EPO right now. They vainly vilify/disregard judges and try to control judges (even by deterrence). Thankfully, as shown below, even the EFF nowdadays points that out, as we noted yesterday.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. The Patent Office Can’t Ignore Law it Dislikes

    The Patent Office’s new guidance cites a handful of Federal Circuit decisions in support of its approach. But it ignores countless cases in which the Federal Circuit has rejected ineligible abstract ideas that the Patent Office will now almost certainly approve, and it ignores key aspects of Alice itself.

    The Patent Office has no authority to ignore case law it dislikes. With your help, we will keep fighting to ensure the patent system promotes innovation by limiting patent grants to actual inventions.

CommunityBridge is a Cynical Microsoft-Funded Effort to Show Zemlin Works for ‘Community’, Not Microsoft

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 8:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Maintaining salaries this high requires “Big Tech”

Jim Zemlin's PAC

Summary: After disbanding community participation in the Board (but there are Microsoft staff on the Board now) the “Linux Foundation” (or Zemlin PAC) continues to take Microsoft money and polishes or launders that as “community”

TTHERE has been not a single word from the Microsoft-funded Zemlin PAC since it turned out that Microsoft continues to blackmail Linux (using software patents). We have, by now, seen nearly a dozen news reports about it. Shouldn’t an organisation that goes by the name “Linux Foundation” say something?

Well, Zemlin has been netting Microsoft money from more and more sources (membership, sponsorship of events, sibling/offspring companies and so on). When we started covering EPO matters we sadly lacked the time to cover examples of this, but the latest (context below) shows another example of it. There has been one blog post and two press releases (see [2] below, “Linux Foundation Announces Funding with GitHub”), saying it will operate “to Help Sustain Open Source Communities [...] to advance sustainability, security, and diversity in open source technology.”

“But hey, Microsoft is an Open Source company now (finally!) because GitHub has calculator code with spying in it.”Who gets to decide who receives the money and based on what criteria? This can become very political — one thing that that the PAC of Jim Zemlin has always been (he even told people how to vote in the 2016 Presidential election and issued purely political statement in the Foundation’s — not his personal — site).

The FS Conservancy — a real non-profit which believes it was defunded by the Zemlin PAC because a serial GPL violator and a Zemlin funding source, VMware, asked to curtail GPL enforcement efforts — has been cited [4] for its response to it [5], which was later posted also in the personal blog of Mr. Kuhn. He notes that “LF’s Community Bridge is a proprietary software system.” Just like GitHub. But hey, Microsoft is an Open Source company now (finally!) because GitHub has calculator code with spying in it.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Announcing The Linux Kernel Mentorship project on CommunityBridge, a new Linux Foundation platform

    When Jim Zemlin asked me to come to the Linux Foundation as a Linux Fellow to work on mentoring programs and initiatives to make Linux secure I didn’t have to think twice. I am very excited to be working at the Linux Foundation alongside talented and dedicated individuals on initiatives near and dear to my heart. It is a unique and special opportunity to share my knowledge and passion by helping aspiring developers discover the joy of being a part of the largest open source project in the world.

    Contributing to the Linux kernel and working in open source is my passion. It is an honor to be a contributor to the software that influences and touches everybody in the world whether they know it or not. Being a part of something that has changed the way we communicate, conduct business, learn, and interact with each other is something that myself and thousands of developers worldwide share with pride as part of the Linux community.

    My journey as a Linux Kernel contributor started as a fun experiment to help take Android code and make it part of the core Linux project. I loved the experience of being part of the community and started looking for more opportunities to engage with it. When Greg Kroah-Hartman was looking for volunteers to help him with the stable release maintenance activities, I signed up.

  2. Linux Foundation Announces Funding with GitHub for New CommunityBridge Platform for Developers

    The Linux Foundation today announced Community Bridge™, a new platform created to empower open source developers — and the individuals and organizations who support them — to advance sustainability, security, and diversity in open source technology. On stage, Jim Zemlin, the Executive Director, announced that the Linux Foundation will match funding for any organization that donates funds to CommunityBridge projects to help provide developers resources to solve critical security, mentoring, and diversity challenges in open source ecosystems.

  3. The Linux Foundation Launches New CommunityBridge Platform to Help Sustain Open Source Communities

    The Linux Foundation today announced CommunityBridge – a new platform created to empower open source developers – and the individuals and organizations who support them – to advance sustainability, security, and diversity in open source technology.

  4. The Linux Foundation’s CommunityBridge platform

    The Linux Foundation has announced a new initiative called CommunityBridge; its purpose is to help with funding and support for open-source developers. It includes some security-related services and a means for connecting developers with mentors. The program is in an “early access” mode for now.

  5. Understanding LF’s New ‘Community Bridge’

    Yesterday, the Linux Foundation (LF) launched a new service, called ‘Community Bridge’ — an ambitious platform that promises a self-service system to handle finances, address security issues, manage CLAs and license compliance, and also bring mentorship to projects. These tasks are difficult work that typically require human intervention, so we understand the allure of automating them; we and our peer organizations have long welcomed newcomers to this field and have together sought collaborative assistance for these issues. Indeed, Community Bridge’s offerings bear some similarity to the work of organizations like Apache Software Foundation, the Free Software Foundation (FSF), the GNOME Foundation (GF), Open Source Initiative (OSI), Software in the Public Interest (SPI) and Conservancy. People have already begun to ask us to compare this initiative to our work and the work of our peer organizations. This blog post hopefully answers those questions and anticipated similar questions.

    The first huge difference (and the biggest disappointment for the entire FOSS community) is that LF’s Community Bridge is a proprietary software system. Section 4.2 of their Platform Use Agreement requires those who sign up for this platform to agree to a proprietary software license, and LF has remained silent about the proprietary nature of the platform in its explanatory materials. The LF, as an organization dedicated to Open Source, should release the source for Community Bridge. At Conservancy, we’ve worked since 2012 on a Non-Profit Accounting Software system, including creating a tagging system for transparently documenting ledger transactions, and various support software around that. We and SPI both now use these methods daily. We also funded the creation of a system to manage mentorship programs, which we now runs the Outreachy mentorship program. We believe fundamentally that the infrastructure we provide for FOSS fiscal sponsorship (including accounting, mentorship and license compliance) must
    itself be FOSS, and developed in public as a FOSS project. LF’s own research already shows that transparency is impossible for systems that are not FOSS. More importantly, LF’s new software could directly benefit so many organizations in our community, including not only Conservancy but also the many others (listed above) who do some form of fiscal sponsorship. LF shouldn’t behave like a proprietary software company like Patreon or Kickstarter, but instead support FOSS development. Generally speaking, all Conservancy’s peer organizations (listed above) have been fully dedicated to the idea that any infrastructure developed for fiscal sponsorship should itself be FOSS. LF has deviated here from this community norm by unnecessarily requiring FOSS developers to use proprietary software to receive these services, and also failing to collaborate over a FOSS codebase with the existing community of organizations. LF Executive Director Jim Zemlin has said that ?wants more participation in open source – to advance its sustainability and — wants organizations to share their code for the benefit of their fellow [hu]mankind?; we ask him to apply these principles to his own organization now.

Links 14/3/2019: GNOME 3.32 and Mesa 19.0.0 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 7:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Server

    • F5 Ups Its Container and Open Source Game With $670M Nginx Deal
    • Automation is not automagic: Why better software automation matters

      Many organizations are trying to create a culture of automation and struggling with what it will take to achieve it—or at least to begin to make a legitimate attempt at creating and maintaining it. This article is a different take on the topic for anyone interested in automation, including people struggling on a team that focuses on automation, a company that hasn’t quite figured it out, or teams that aren’t returning the expected ROI.

    • Educating the next generation of technology professionals

      The Red Hat Academy program is now available at more than 1,140 academic institutions around the world, offering top-quality education programs on Red Hat technologies and helping students learn practical, open source IT skills. Red Hat Academy is an academic training program designed to help institutions differentiate themselves by providing an enterprise-ready Linux and open source curriculum. With more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies using Red Hat tools and services, Red Hat Academy provides individuals with opportunities of growth through in-demand content and hands-on labs with flexibility.

    • Strengthening the power of collaboration: Why Red Hat and Microsoft are extending our partnership

      In the nearly four years since our landmark announcement, Red Hat and Microsoft have seen immense value delivered to our customers, from co-support of hybrid cloud deployments to waves of upstream innovation for expanded Linux capabilities. We’re pleased to continue this great work in the years ahead and look forward to helping enterprises harness the power of open enterprise technologies across the hybrid cloud.

    • Quarking Drools: How we turned a 13-year-old Java project into a first-class serverless component

      Rule-based artificial intelligence (AI) is often overlooked, possibly because people think it’s only useful in heavyweight enterprise software products. However, that’s not necessarily true. Simply put, a rule engine is just a piece of software that allows you to separate domain and business-specific constraint from the main application flow. We are part of the team developing and maintaining Drools—the world’s most popular open source rule engine and part of Red Hat—and, in this article, we will describe how we are changing Drools to make it part of the cloud and serverless revolution.

    • Why feedback, not metrics, is critical to DevOps

      Most managers and agile coaches depend on metrics over feedback from their teams, users, and even customers. In fact, quite a few use feedback and metrics synonymously, where they present feedback from teams or customers as a bunch of numbers or a graphical representation of those numbers. This is not only unfortunate, but it can be misleading as it presents only part of the story and not the entire truth.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • A container-confinement breakout

      The recently announced container-confinement breakout for containers started with runc is interesting from a few different perspectives. For one, it affects more than just runc-based containers as privileged LXC-based containers (and likely others) are also affected, though the LXC-based variety are harder to compromise than the runc ones. But it also, once again, shows that privileged containers are difficult—perhaps impossible—to create in a secure manner. Beyond that, it exploits some Linux kernel interfaces in novel ways and the fixes use a perhaps lesser-known system call that was added to Linux less than five years back.

      The runc tool implements the container runtime specification of the Open Container Initiative (OCI), so it is used by a number of different containerization solutions and orchestration systems, including Docker, Podman, Kubernetes, CRI-O, and containerd. The flaw, which uses the /proc/self/exe pseudo-file to gain control of the host operating system (thus anything else, including other containers, running on the host), has been assigned CVE-2019-5736. It is a massive hole for containers that run with access to the host root user ID (i.e. UID 0), which, sadly, covers most of the containers being run today.

      There are a number of sources of information on the flaw, starting with the announcement from runc maintainer Aleksa Sarai linked above. The discoverers, Adam Iwaniuk and Borys Popławski, put out a blog post about how they found the hole, including some false steps along the way. In addition, one of the LXC maintainers who worked with Sarai on the runc fix, Christian Brauner, described the problems with privileged containers and how CVE-2019-5736 applies to LXC containers. There is a proof of concept (PoC) attached to Sarai’s announcement, along with another more detailed PoC he posted the following day after the discoverers’ blog post.

    • The Thunderclap vulnerabilities

      It should come as no surprise that plugging untrusted devices into a computer system can lead to a wide variety of bad outcomes—though often enough it works just fine. We have reported on a number of these kinds of vulnerabilities (e.g. BadUSB in 2014) along the way. So it will not shock readers to find out that another vulnerability of this type has been discovered, though it may not sit well that, even after years of vulnerable plug-in buses, there are still no solid protections against these rogue devices. This most-recent entrant into this space targets the Thunderbolt interface; the vulnerabilities found have been dubbed “Thunderclap”.

      There are several different versions of Thunderbolt, either using Mini DisplayPort connectors (Thunderbolt 1 and 2) or USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 3). According to the long list of researchers behind Thunderclap, all of those are vulnerable to the problems they found. Beyond that, PCI Express (PCIe) peripherals are also able to exploit the Thunderclap vulnerabilities, though they are a bit less prone to hotplugging. Thunderclap is the subject of a paper [PDF] and web site. It is more than just a bunch of vulnerabilities, however, as there is a hardware and software research platform that they have developed and released. A high-level summary of the Thunderclap paper was posted to the Light Blue Touchpaper blog by Theo Markettos, one of the researchers, at the end of February.

    • Core scheduling

      Kernel developers are used to having to defend their work when posting it to the mailing lists, so when a longtime kernel developer describes their own work as “expensive and nasty”, one tends to wonder what is going on. The patch set in question is core scheduling from Peter Zijlstra. It is intended to make simultaneous multithreading (SMT) usable on systems where cache-based side channels are a concern, but even its author is far from convinced that it should actually become part of the kernel.
      SMT increases performance by turning one physical CPU into two virtual CPUs that share the hardware; while one is waiting for data from memory, the other can be executing. Sharing a processor this closely has led to security issues and concerns for years, and many security-conscious users disable SMT entirely. The disclosure of the L1 terminal fault vulnerability in 2018 did not improve the situation; for many, SMT simply isn’t worth the risks it brings with it.

      But performance matters too, so there is interest in finding ways to make SMT safe (or safer, at least) to use in environments with users who do not trust each other. The coscheduling patch set posted last September was one attempt to solve this problem, but it did not get far and has not been reposted. One obstacle to this patch set was almost certainly its complexity; it operated at every level of the scheduling domain hierarchy, and thus addressed more than just the SMT problem.

      Zijlstra’s patch set is focused on scheduling at the core level only, meaning that it is intended to address SMT concerns but not to control higher-level groups of physical processors as a unit. Conceptually, it is simple enough. On kernels where core scheduling is enabled, a core_cookie field is added to the task structure; it is an unsigned long value. These cookies are used to define the trust boundaries; two processes with the same cookie value trust each other and can be allowed to run simultaneously on the same core.

    • A kernel unit-testing framework

      March 1, 2019 For much of its history, the kernel has had little in the way of formal testing infrastructure. It is not entirely an exaggeration to say that testing is what the kernel community kept users around for. Over the years, though, that situation has improved; internal features like kselftest and services like the 0day testing system have increased our test coverage considerably. The story is unlikely to end there, though; the next addition to the kernel’s testing arsenal may be a unit-testing framework called KUnit.

      The KUnit patches, currently in their fourth revision, have been developed by Brendan Higgins at Google. The intent is to enable the easy and rapid testing of kernel components in isolation — unit testing, in other words. That distinguishes KUnit from kernel’s kselftest framework in a couple of significant ways. Kselftest is intended to verify that a given feature works in a running kernel; the tests run in user space and exercise the kernel that the system booted. They thus can be thought of as a sort of end-to-end test, ensuring that specific parts of the entire system are behaving as expected. These tests are important to have, but they do not necessarily test specific kernel subsystems in isolation from all of the others, and they require actually booting the kernel to be tested.

      KUnit, instead, is designed to run more focused tests, and they run inside the kernel itself. To make this easy to do in any setting, the framework makes use of user-mode Linux (UML) to actually run the tests. That may come as a surprise to those who think of UML as a dusty relic from before the kernel had proper virtualization support (its home page is hosted on SourceForge and offers a bleeding-edge 2.6.24 kernel for download), but UML has been maintained over the years. It makes a good platform for something like KUnit without rebooting the host system or needing to set up virtualization.

    • Two topics in user-space access

      Kernel code must often access data that is stored in user space. Most of the time, this access is uneventful, but it is not without its dangers and cannot be done without exercising due care. A couple of recent discussions have made it clear that this care is not always being taken, and that not all kernel developers fully understand how user-space access should be performed. The good news is that kernel developers are currently working on a set of changes to make user-space access safer in the future.

    • Linux Foundation

      • The Linux Foundation Launches Continuous Delivery Foundation

        The first projects to be hosted under the auspices of CDF, which was launched at the Open Source Leadership Summit conference, includes Jenkins, the open source CI/CD system, and Jenkins X, an open source CI/CD solution on Kubernetes. Both were developed by CloudBees. Netflix and Google, meanwhile, are contributing Spinnaker, an open source multi-cloud CD solution, and Google is also adding Tekton, an open source project and specification for creating CI/CD components.

        Additional projects are expected to join CDF once a Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) is formally named.

        Founding members of the CDF include Alauda, Alibaba, Anchore, Armory, Autodesk, Capital One, CircleCI, CloudBees, DeployHub, GitLab, Google, Huawei, JFrog, Netflix, Puppet, Red Hat, SAP and Snyk.

        Chris Aniszczyk, vice president of developer relations for The Linux Foundation, said that while a lot of progress has been made over the years regarding adoption of CI, the challenges associated with mastering CD have proven more vexing. To address that issue, the CDF will evangelize CI/CD and DevOps methodologies, define and document best practices, provide guidelines and create training materials to better enable organizations to implement CI/CD best practices.

      • OpenChain Project Adds Fujitsu as Platinum Member

        The OpenChain Project, which builds trust in open source by making open source license compliance simpler and more consistent, announced today at Linux Foundation’s Open Source Leadership Summit (OSLS), that Fujitsu has joined as a Platinum member.

        Fujitsu joins other recent Platinum member additions including Bosch, Microsoft, Uber, Google and Facebook. OpenChain provides a specification as well as overarching processes, policies and training that companies need to be successful in managing open source license compliance so that it becomes more efficient, understandable and predictable for participants of the software supply chain.

        As code flows between companies that consume billions of lines of open source software through their supply chains to build new products and services, a key challenge is ensuring the relevant license requirements are met in a timely and effective manner. The OpenChain Project provides a consistent way to address that and other challenges. Conformance with the OpenChain Specification shows that an organization follows the key requirements of a quality open source compliance program, and builds trust between organizations in the supply chain. It makes procurement easier for purchasers and preferred status easier for suppliers.

      • Tetrate Emerges With Enterprise Service Mesh Platform

        The open-source Envoy project is part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and was originally developed by ride sharing company Lyft. Envoy is a service mesh reverse proxy technology that is used to help scale microservices data traffic. Multiple vendors, including Google, IBM, AWS, F5 Networks, Avi Networks and VMware, have embraced the Istio and Envoy model and have announced their own services based on the technology.

        Alongside Tetrate’s official launch, the company also announced that it has raised $12.5 million in funding led by Dell Technologies Capital with participation from 8VC, Intel Capital, Rain Capital and Samsung NEXT.

      • Shuah Khan becomes the third Linux Foundation Fellow

        Programmers love to write code. But what about debugging it, writing test suites, and tracking down security bugs? Not so much. To help address these problems in Linux, Shuah Khan, a noted Linux kernel developer, is becoming — after Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman — the Linux Foundation’s third Linux Foundation Fellow.

      • CHIPS Alliance to Create Open Chip Design Tools for RISC-V and Beyond

        The Linux Foundation and several major RISC-V development firms have launched an LF-hosted CHIPS Alliance with a mission “to host and curate high-quality open source code relevant to the design of silicon devices.” The founding members — Esperanto Technologies, Google, SiFive, and Western Digital — are all involved in RISC-V projects.

        On the same day that the CHIPS Alliance was announced, Intel and other companies, including Google launched a Compute Express Link (CXL) consortium that will open source and develop Intel’s CXL interconnect. CXL shares many traits and goals of the OmniXtend protocol that Western Digital is contributing to CHIPS (see farther below).

        The CHIPS Alliance aims to “foster a collaborative environment that will enable accelerated creation and deployment of more efficient and flexible chip designs for use in mobile, computing, consumer electronics, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.” This “independent entity” will enable “companies and individuals to collaborate and contribute resources to make open source CPU chip and system-on-a-chip (SoC) design more accessible to the market,” says the project.

      • The Linux Foundation’s CommunityBridge platform

        The Linux Foundation has announced a new initiative called CommunityBridge; its purpose is to help with funding and support for open-source developers. It includes some security-related services and a means for connecting developers with mentors. The program is in an “early access” mode for now.

      • Understanding LF’s New ‘Community Bridge’

        Yesterday, the Linux Foundation (LF) launched a new service, called ‘Community Bridge’ — an ambitious platform that promises a self-service system to handle finances, address security issues, manage CLAs and license compliance, and also bring mentorship to projects. These tasks are difficult work that typically require human intervention, so we understand the allure of automating them; we and our peer organizations have long welcomed newcomers to this field and have together sought collaborative assistance for these issues. Indeed, Community Bridge’s offerings bear some similarity to the work of organizations like Apache Software Foundation, the Free Software Foundation (FSF), the GNOME Foundation (GF), Open Source Initiative (OSI), Software in the Public Interest (SPI) and Conservancy. People have already begun to ask us to compare this initiative to our work and the work of our peer organizations. This blog post hopefully answers those questions and anticipated similar questions.

        The first huge difference (and the biggest disappointment for the entire FOSS community) is that LF’s Community Bridge is a proprietary software system. Section 4.2 of their Platform Use Agreement requires those who sign up for this platform to agree to a proprietary software license, and LF has remained silent about the proprietary nature of the platform in its explanatory materials. The LF, as an organization dedicated to Open Source, should release the source for Community Bridge. At Conservancy, we’ve worked since 2012 on a Non-Profit Accounting Software system, including creating a tagging system for transparently documenting ledger transactions, and various support software around that. We and SPI both now use these methods daily. We also funded the creation of a system to manage mentorship programs, which we now runs the Outreachy mentorship program. We believe fundamentally that the infrastructure we provide for FOSS fiscal sponsorship (including accounting, mentorship and license compliance) must itself be FOSS, and developed in public as a FOSS project. LF’s own research already shows that transparency is impossible for systems that are not FOSS. More importantly, LF’s new software could directly benefit so many organizations in our community, including not only Conservancy but also the many others (listed above) who do some form of fiscal sponsorship. LF shouldn’t behave like a proprietary software company like Patreon or Kickstarter, but instead support FOSS development. Generally speaking, all Conservancy’s peer organizations (listed above) have been fully dedicated to the idea that any infrastructure developed for fiscal sponsorship should itself be FOSS. LF has deviated here from this community norm by unnecessarily requiring FOSS developers to use proprietary software to receive these services, and also failing to collaborate over a FOSS codebase with the existing community of organizations. LF Executive Director Jim Zemlin has said that ?wants more participation in open source – to advance its sustainability and — wants organizations to share their code for the benefit of their fellow [hu]mankind?; we ask him to apply these principles to his own organization now.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Radeon ROCm 2.2 Released With Vega 20 Optimization, Caffe2 Multi-GPU Training

        One month since the release of ROCm 2.1, the Radeon Open Compute stack has now been succeeded by ROCm 2.2.

        The ROCm 2.2 release shipping today comes as a bit of a surprise. It’s not the most feature-packed update but does have some nice additions while building on the already exciting ROCm 2.0 that shipped at the end of 2018.

        ROCm 2.2 brings rocSPARSE optimizations for Vega 20 with cache usage improvements, improved DGEMM performance for reduced matrix sizes, and with Caffe2 there is now support for multi-GPU training.

      • mesa 19.0.0
        Hi List,
        I'm pleased to announce the general availability of mesa 19.0.0. We've had a
        slightly long rc process with 7 RCs (there should have been 6, but there was a
        bug in the script for pulling patches resulting in two back to back RCs). In
        general this release has shaped up rather nicely, and I look forward to the
        stable release cycle.
        Of note is that autotools support is deprecated in 19.0.0, and you must now add
        --enable-autotools to autogen.sh and configure. If you haven't already **now**
        is the time to try meson, if all goes according to plan autotools will be
        removed before the 19.1 release.
        Brian Paul (1):
              svga: remove SVGA_RELOC_READ flag in SVGA3D_BindGBSurface()
        Danylo Piliaiev (1):
              anv: Fix destroying descriptor sets when pool gets reset
        Dylan Baker (4):
              cherry-ignore: Update the cherry-ignore file
              VERSION: bump for 19.0.0 release
              docs: Add release notes for 19.0.0
              docs: Add SHA256 sums for 19.0.0
        Eric Anholt (1):
              st/dri: Set the PIPE_BIND_SHARED flag on create_image_with_modifiers.
        Erik Faye-Lund (1):
              virgl: remove unused variable
        Ian Romanick (2):
              intel/fs: nir_op_extract_i8 extracts a byte, not a word
              intel/fs: Fix extract_u8 of an odd byte from a 64-bit integer
        Jason Ekstrand (5):
              spirv: Pull offset/stride from the pointer for OpArrayLength
              anv: Refactor descriptor pushing a bit
              anv: Take references to push descriptor set layouts
              nir: Add a pass for lowering IO back to vector when possible
              intel/nir: Vectorize all IO
        Juan A. Suarez Romero (1):
              anv: destroy descriptor sets when pool gets reset
        Samuel Pitoiset (1):
              radv: fix pointSizeRange limits
        Tapani Pälli (3):
              anv: release memory allocated by glsl types during spirv_to_nir
              anv: revert "anv: release memory allocated by glsl types during spirv_to_nir"
              anv: destroy descriptor sets when pool gets destroyed
        pal1000 (1):
              scons: Compatibility with Scons development version string
      • Mesa 19.0 Graphics Stack Released for Linux Gamers with Numerous Improvements

        The team behind the Mesa 3D Graphics Library project announced today the final release and general availability of the long-anticipated Mesa 19.0 graphics stack series for Linux-based operating systems.

        Implementing the OpenGL 4.5 API, the Mesa 19.0 graphics stack is finally here after an extended development cycle that took place over the last three months. It brings dozens of new features, new extensions, and countless bug fixes. Highlights of this major new series includes support for AMD Radeon Vega 10, Vega 20, and Vega M GPUs, GNU Hurd support, and LLVM 7 compatibility.

      • Mesa 19.0 Released With Many Improvements To The Open-Source Vulkan/OpenGL Drivers

        Mesa 19.0 has finally been released! It’s more than two weeks late, but it should be worth the wait given all the improvements in this quarterly feature update to this open-source graphics driver stack.

        The Mesa 19.0 features are plentiful with Intel’s Vulkan driver now having transform feedback and many other additions, soft FP64/INT64 was merged to Mesa, the necessary bits are in place for RadeonSI FreeSync/Adaptive-Sync, AMD Zen thread optimizations, various new OpenGL extensions, Vega RADV primitive binning is enabled by default, and a variety of performance improvements and other OpenGL/Vulkan driver tuning.

      • Mesa 19.0 is officially out, lots of improvements for Linux open source graphics drivers

        Today is the day, for those of you using open source graphics drivers (AMD/Intel and some older NVIDIA GPUs), Mesa 19.0 is now officially out.

      • Intel Sends Out Initial Linux Graphics Driver Support For “Elkhart Lake”

        It’s busy as ever for the open-source Intel Linux graphics driver developers bringing up support for upcoming hardware like the recently published driver patches for Comet Lake, continuing to tweak the maturing Icelake “Gen 11″ graphics, and also plotting the necessary re-engineering of the driver needed to bring-up Intel’s in-development “Xe” discrete graphics. And Intel developers this evening sent out their initial enablement work for Elkhart Lake.

      • An overview of the Panfrost driver

        During the past few months, significant progress has been made on the Open Source Arm Mali GPU driver front, culminating in the Panfrost driver now being available for Mali T and G-series of GPUs.

      • AMDGPU For Linux 5.1 Tweaks The Golden Settings For Vega, Corrects Fiji Power Reading

        Since last week the big set of DRM driver changes has been part of the mainline kernel for Linux 5.1 while working its way to mainline now are a couple of early fixes to the AMDGPU driver.

    • Benchmarks

      • Top 5 Free Benchmarking Tools

        Benchmarking is probably of one the most mind-bending and involved process of computer science and technology. They are supposed to represent what your hardware is capable of doing in real world scenarios and also worst possible scenarios.There are a lot of things you might want to consider while benchmarking. What are you benchmarking? The CPU, the memory, SSD IOPs, or maybe it is your GPU. What workloads are you benchmarking for? This is where the entire system may have to be considered as a single entity rather than just focusing on one component. For example, if you are benchmarking a system’s performance as a database you can’t just measure the SSD’s speeds and be done with it. The CPU can be a bottleneck or so can be the memory.
        Given how involved the process of benchmarking is, and how important it is when making a decision. We need some standard set of tools that we can use to benchmark our systems, get a simple to understand result and use it to compare different hardware components and configurations effectively.

        Here are a few free benchmarking tools that you cover a wide array of hardware and use cases.

  • Applications

    • 8 Best Free Linux Family History Software

      Family history (or genealogy) software is computer software used to record, organise and publish genealogical data. With this software, you can help unlock the past, discover secrets and surprises from your past. Genealogy, the study of one’s ancestry, allows people to personalise the past.

      There are useful websites devoted to helping would-be genealogists. Further, radio and TV programmes such as the immortal Who Do You Think You Are?, and other shows such as Secrets of the Clink have encouraged a growing band people to trace their roots, sparking new interest. It’s not just celebrities when tracing their ancestry who come up with secrets and surprises from their past.

    • L2TP Tunnel Support Added To Systemd

      The newest feature addition for systemd is supporting L2TP, the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, as part of its networking code.

      Systemd’s networkd now has support merged for LT2TP tunnel support. L2TP can be used for extending a local area network (LAN) or also for VPN purposes when paired with the likes of IPsec for providing encryption. L2TP also has a variety of other use-cases with this bare protocol able to offer a layer two link over an L3 network.

    • libinput 1.12.901
      The first RC for libinput 1.13 is now available.
      Only two notable features in this release but patches are accumulating on
      master, it's been 6 months since 1.12 and I've decided to postpone the two
      major features (hi-res scrolling and totem support) to 1.14.
      Touch arbitration has improved for tablets, especially on touch screens.
      A timer set on pen proximity out means we don't get ghost touches anymore
      when the hand lifts off slower than the pen itself. And location-based touch
      arbitration means that parts of the screen can be interacted with even while
      the pen is in proximity. libinput uses the tilt information where
      available to disable touches in a rectangle around the pen where the hand is
      likely to be but leaves the rest of the touchscreen available otherwise.
      Where the UI supports it, this allows for bimanual interaction.
      The test suite is installed on demand (meson -Dinstall-tests=true). Where
      run from the installed location it will use the normal library lookups and
      the quirks directory as defined by the prefix. This makes it useful for
      distribution-level testing, i.e. run this on a test machine after updating
      the package to make sure everything is as expected. Where available, you can
      invoke it with the "libinput test-suite" command.
      Other than that, a load of fixes, quirks added, cleanups, tidy-ups and so on
      an so forth.
      As usual, the git shortlog is below. Many thanks to all the contributors.
    • Libinput 1.13 Is Coming But High-Resolution Scrolling & Dell Totem Support Delayed

      Libinput is fairly mature at this stage for offering a unified input handling library for use on both X.Org and Wayland Linux desktops. Libinput has largely reached a feature plateau with new releases no longer coming out so often and no glaring gaps in support. With it already being a half-year since the last major release, libinput 1.13 is now being buttoned up for release and available today is the first release candidate.

      Libinput 1.13 isn’t that exciting of a release particularly since maintainer Peter Hutterer of Red Hat decided to delay the high resolution scrolling support. The Linux 5.0 kernel brought the much anticipated high resolution scrolling support for various Logitech/Microsoft mice to improve the scroll-wheel experience. Besides the kernel support, there is also the user-space support that needs updating. Peter decided to delay this functionality now until Libinput 1.14 to give it more time to bake.

    • Proprietary

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • OpenRCT2, the open source game engine for RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 was updated

        Some fresh news about a wonderful open source game engine this morning, as OpenRCT2 for RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 has a new release out.

        This release v0.2.2 code-named “Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook” brings in an almost completely new Hungarian translation, a replay system, a sprite sorting benchmark, a shortcut to advance one tick, allow for steep slopes on the side-friction roller coaster, they added Powered Launch mode to Inverted RC (for RCT1 parity), an optional chat button to top toolbar in multiplayer games, the handy feature to download missing objects when loading a park and new object types: station, terrain surface, and terrain edge.

      • The cute base-building survival game ‘MewnBase’ has some new buildings available

        MewnBase, a space-cat base-building survival game currently in development just recently had a new update, which includes some fun new buildings.

        Added in are Wind Turbines allowing you a new means of generating power, a Lightning Rod/Collector to protect your base from strikes, a Large Battery for more storage and Powered Rain Collectors to automatically transfer rain water into your Water Supply modules.

        There’s also new tooltips, some UI updates, Engines now have their own tech-tree level, improvements to the map view to include pan and zoom along with some bug fixes.

      • In the puzzler ‘Baba Is You’, you mess with the rules and it’s out now

        Baba Is You from developer Hempuli Oy is a very interesting looking puzzler and it’s out now with Linux support.

        Don’t let the simplistic visuals fool you, the whole idea is honestly brilliant. To complete each level, you need to change the rules. These rules are blocks in each level you move around and combine to overcome challenges.

      • Pyramid of Prophecy, the first DLC for Heroes of Hammerwatch is out

        Heroes of Hammerwatch, the great looking rogue-lite action-adventure just expanded with the Pyramid of Prophecy DLC.

        The release also comes with a big free patch to the base-game for all owners, even without the DLC so that’s awesome too. The free update adds in a sixth tier to the Town Hall including new levels, new voices, new items, a new Luck stat to tip the RNG in your favour and more.

      • Your mid-week (sort of) look at some games on sale, plenty of goodies

        This is you sort-of mid-week look at some epic Linux gaming deals going on right now, a look across various stores to find you some deals ready for the weekend ahead.

        First up, Fanatical are doing a big Spring Sale (Linux games here) and if you use the discount code “FANATICAL10″ up until March 31st you get an extra 10% off. They have a pretty amazing deal going on Skullgirls + 2nd Encore DLC with 91% off. They also have Two Point Hospital at the lowest price so far with 25% off.

      • Put on your headband and enter the internet of dreams, Hypnospace Outlaw is out

        Hypnospace Outlaw is both ridiculous and brilliant, a game that simulates the ’90s internet in a rather disturbing way and it’s out now with Linux support.

      • Building and management sim ‘School Owner’ coming to Linux in May

        For those who love their building and management sims, one I spotted recently was School Owner and it’s coming to Linux in May.

        First thing, it’s not a fully completed game. It’s going to be in Early Access, although the developer did say it’s already in a “playable state” (I would hope so…) but they have plans to add in a lot more during the development of it like roads, updated graphics, more sound effects and background music and so on.


        After a bit more than one year of work, the Godot developers and contributors are delighted to get their new release out the door, Godot 3.1! It brings much-requested improvements to usability and many important features.

        Godot 3.0 was a massive release, which required large rewrites of the engine codebase and breaking backwards compatibility significantly. This new version builds upon it by improving it and finishing the pending work.

        As a result, Godot 3.1 feels more mature and easy to use, and it does away with many hurdles introduced in the previous versions.

        Download Godot 3.1 now and keep on reading about the great features added in this version.

      • Godot 3.1 is out, a massive upgrade for this impressive open source game engine

        After going through 11 beta builds and 3 release candidates, Godot 3.1 is officially out with tons of new features.

        This open source game engine continues to impress and this latest release might be quite enticing to game developers. Godot 3.1 comes in little over a year after Godot 3.0 and to say it’s a big release would be a huge understatement. When looking over what they’ve done, I’m shocked at just how many features have been put in.

      • Godot 3.1 Open-Source Game Engine Debuts With Many Improvements

        It’s been over one year since Godot 3.0 debuted and today it’s finally been succeeded by the release of Godot 3.1, the latest feature update for this leading cross-platform, open-source game engine.

        Godot 3.1 delivers on OpenGL ES 2.0 rendering support, continued enablement around virtual reality (VR), 3D soft-body physics capabilities and a new 3D rag-doll system, constructive solid geometry, BPTC texture compression, 2D improvements, and a lot more to make this game engine more on par with the proprietary competition and upping the visual capabilities for both desktops and mobile platforms.

      • Seems like there’s no hope for BattlEye support within Steam Play

        With Valve and Easy Anti-Cheat in talks to get EAC supported within Steam Play, many readers asked about BattlEye as it’s another anti-cheat solution blocking games actually working with Steam Play on Linux. I now have an answer on that.

      • The very intriguing cyberpunk point & click ‘VirtuaVerse’ is coming to Linux

        In a future not too far away, one Artificial Intelligence proved better than the rest, better than governments and now everyone is connected in VirtuaVerse.

        Announced yesterday from developer Theta Division and publisher Blood Music, it has a seriously good style to it.

      • Doomgeon, a fast-paced first-person dungeon crawler is up on itch.io with Linux support

        After failing to get funding on Kickstarter, the fast-paced dungeon crawler ‘Doomgeon’ has gone to itch.io to continue development.

        With a meagre goal of £3,000 the developer, OkaeriStudio, only managed to get £341 since February 11th. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game though to be clear, a lot of good games completely fail to get any kind of traction across crowdfunding and various stores.

      • FLAMBERGE, an Early Access tactical RPG is now up on itch.io

        For those who prefer different stores to keep their options open, the Early Access tactical RPG FLAMBERGE is now available on itch.io.

        For the Linux version, the developer has made it clear that while Linux versions are being made, it’s not “strictly supported” as they’ve had some trouble with it in the past. However, they did mention to email them if you find bugs and some issues might not be fixed “until the end of the development”.

      • Axis & Allies Online from Beamdog now actually has a Steam page and some screenshots

        Axis & Allies Online, the digital adaption of the classic that Beamdog announced last month is coming to Linux and we can now actually see what it looks like.

        As a reminder, Axis & Allies Online is based on Axis & Allies 1942 Second Edition along with plenty of upgrades you would expect to see in digital form. It’s going to start off in Early Access and they’re not giving a date on when that will be just yet.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Public backlash prompts officials in Irkutsk to audit construction of bottling plant that would have exported Lake Baikal water to China

      This Tuesday, March 12, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered National Resources and Environment Minister Dmitry Kobylkin to verify that the construction of a bottling facility in the Lake Baikal area complies with “the strictest environmental standards.”

      Construction on the plant began this January, supported by 1.5 billion rubles ($22.9 million) in investment from the company “Aquasib.” The facility was expected to begin operating by the end of the year, before construction is completely finished in 2021. Roughly 80 percent of the plant’s production is earmarked for export, mainly to China, South Korea, and Mongolia.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Krita 4.2.0: the First Painting Application to bring HDR Support to Windows

        We’re deep in bug fixing mode now, because in May we want to release the next major version of Krita: Krita 4.2.0. While there will be a host of new features, a plethora of bug fixes and performance improvements, one thing is unique: support for painting in HDR mode. Krita is the very first application, open source or proprietary, that offers this!

        So, today we release a preview version of Krita 4.2.0 with HDR support baked in, so you can give the new functionality a try!

        Of course, at this moment, only Windows 10 supports HDR monitors, and only with some very specific hardware. Your CPU and GPU need to be new enough, and you need to have a monitor that supports HDR. We know that the brave folks at Intel are working on HDR support for Linux, though!

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • New Features And Improvements In GNOME 3.32

        Also, while not part of the core GNOME, a new Desktop Icons extension was released, which restores traditional desktop icons for users wanting this functionality. The extension has multi-monitor support, and it offers everything you’d need, from thumbnails, and symlinks, to keyboard shortcuts for selection, renaming, and so on. What’s more, this extension supports Wayland too, as opposed to Files (Nautilus) which only worked with X11.

        The GNOME 3.32 changes presented in this article are only the most prominent in this release, but there are many more smaller improvements and fixes.

        The GNOME 3.32 desktop should be made available soon after its release in rolling Linux distributions like Arch Linux. It will also be available with the next Ubuntu and Fedora releases (Ubuntu 19.04 / Fedora 30), and other Linux distributions shipping with the GNOME desktop.

      • A Look At The Many Improvements & New Features In GNOME 3.32

        Barring any last minute delays, GNOME 3.32 is expected to ship today as the latest six-month update to this popular open-source desktop environment. GNOME 3.32 personally has me quite excited more so for the improvements — and bug fixes — over “new” features, but here is a look at some of what there is to get excited about with this latest update to the GNOME 3 desktop.

      • GNOME 3.34 “Thessaloniki” Desktop Environment Slated for Release on September 11

        The GNOME Project, through Andre Klapper, announced that the release schedule of the upcoming GNOME 3.34 desktop environment was finalized and it’s now available for general public.

        With the final release of the GNOME 3.32 desktop environment knocking on our doors, the time has come to take a look at the release schedule of the next major release of the open-source graphical desktop environment used by numerous Linux-based operating systems, including Ubuntu.

        According to the release schedule, the development cycle of the GNOME 3.34 desktop environment series will kick off soon after GNOME 3.32 release hits the streets tomorrow, March 13th, and it’ll take place under the GNOME 3.33.x umbrella. The first development snapshot, GNOME 3.33.1, will be released to the public on April 24th.

      • Cast To TV v8 GNOME Extension Adds Support For Multiple Chromecasts, Automatic Subtitles Encoding

        Cast to TV, a GNOME extension to cast videos, music and pictures to Chromecast or other devices over the local network, has been updated to v8, with some important additions.

        Cast to TV v8 brings support for multiple Chromecast devices. To select the Chromecast device that is used for casting local media, open the extension settings, click the refresh icon next to the “Chromecast selection” item, and the drop-down next to it will be populated with a list of Chromecast devices available on the local network.

        Another important addition is automatic subtitles encoding. Previously, the Cast to TV settings had an option which allowed users to manually select the subtitles encoding – since this is done automatically now, the character encoding option has been removed from its settings.

      • GNOME 3.32 Released

        The latest version of GNOME 3 has been released today. Version 3.32 contains six months of work by the GNOME community and includes many improvements, performance improvements and new features.

        This release features a refreshed visual style ranging from an entirely new set of app icons to improvements to the user interface style. Many of the base style colors have been saturated, giving them a more vivid, vibrant appearance. Buttons are more rounded and have a softer “shadow” border. Switches no longer use the explicit ON and OFF text, instead using color to indicate state.

      • The Faster & More Beautiful GNOME 3.32 Has Been Released

        GNOME 3.32, which is codenamed “Taipei” given the location of GNOME.Asia Summit 2018, has been officially released on time.

        The GNOME folks have officially announced 3.32 as the latest version of the GNOME 3 stack.

        From this morning you can see our favorite changes and new features of GNOME 3.32… The biggest highlights are fractional scaling support, performance improvements, and a lot of bug fixing.

      • GNOME 3.32 “Taipei” Desktop Environment Officially Released, Here’s What’s New

        Six months in development, the GNOME 3.32 desktop environment is finally here to upgrade your GNOME experience to the next level by adding lots of new features, fixing bugs from previous versions, improving existing components and apps, as well as polishing the look and feel of the user interface.

        With the GNOME 3.32 release, the GNOME desktop becomes flatter, lighter, and more modern. After upgrading, users will notice that the App Menus are no longer available and their content was moved to other places, there are changes to the buttons, header bars, and switches, as well as more consistent colors and new app icons.

      • GNOME 3.32 Released, This is What’s New

        GNOME 3.32, out today, brings a crop of new features and enhancements to the Linux desktop.

        The update includes a new icon set and theme refresh, rolls in a bunch of (much needed) performance patches, and includes new versions of core apps, like the Nautilus file manager.

        In all, it’s a major upgrade. And, as this is the world’s most popular free, open-source desktop environment, a major upgrade of the GNOME desktop is major news to its millions of users.

        There’s plenty more to learn about, so join us as we take a look at the best new features of GNOME 3.32.

      • GNOME 3.32 ‘Taipei’ is finally here! The best Linux desktop environment gets even better

        Whether or not a desktop environment is “best” is subjective. In other words, not all people prefer the same DE. Some folks like GNOME, others are KDE Plasma fans, and some Linux users choose something else. With that said, GNOME is the best. It is not debatable — please accept this fact. GNOME simply offers the most sensical user interface while also being beautiful. Look, when Canonical killed the much-maligned Unity, what DE was chosen as the new default DE for Ubuntu? Exactly — GNOME. Hell, GNOME bests both macOS and Windows 10 too.

        Today, the best gets even better as GNOME 3.32 “Taipei” is finally here! The DE finally gets one of the most desired features — fractional scaling. While technically just experimental for now, it will allow users to better scale their desktops when using a HiDPI monitor. Speaking of appearances, GNOME finally gets refreshed icons, and yes, that matters. They look amazing and modern. Also cool? The on-screen keyboard has an emoji picker! User images are now all circular too, lending to a more cohesive and consistent feel. The excellent GNOME Software is getting an update too, with more transparent details about app permissions.

  • Distributions

    • Linux Distros Used in IoT Devices

      With IoT devices, we have a tendency to think of them as simple when they’re really anything but. Even the simplest IoT devices run software to keep them going, and the vast majority of these are running some form of Linux.

      If you’re not familiar with Linux distributions, they take the same core operating system, Linux, and build tools around it for specific needs. Because IoT devices have limited hardware resources compared to PCs, there are a few distros aimed at this use case. Whether you’re building a DIY project or you’re just curious, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best-known Linux distros used in IoT devices.

    • Recommended Linux OS In 2019

      Let’s start with the best Linux distros for the beginner or let’s say easy to use Linux distros in 2019. In this categories, We thought to put Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Elementary OS, Manjaro Linux and Zorin OS.

    • Best Linux distributions which look like Windows

      Once you have understood the pros and cons while shifting from Windows to Linux and decided in favor of the latter, the tougher part would be adjusting with the new environment. Thankfully, there are a few distributions of Linux which have an interface similar to that of Windows. While no Linux distribution can be like Windows 10, many of them do follow teh Windows 7 model.

    • New Releases

      • IPFire 2.21 – Core Update 128 released

        This is the official release announcement for IPFire 2.21 – Core Update 128; another maintenance update with a brand new kernel, introducing TLS 1.3 throughout the whole system and of course a whole package of bug fixes and other improvements.

        Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this Core Update with either sending in patches, testing, reporting bugs and many many other things. I am quite happy to see the team grow! Thank you very much as well to all of you who have supported our Donations Challenge so far. We have received a lot of nice words and support from you, but we are not there, yet

      • Sparky 5.7 Special Editions

        New live/install iso images of SparkyLinux 5.7 “Nibiru” special editions: GameOver, Multimedia & Rescue are available to download. Sparky 5 follows rolling release model and is based on Debian testing “Buster”.

        The latest iso images follow changes implemented at the Sparky 5.7, and offer additional small changes, such as:
        – system updated from Debian testing repos as of March 11, 2019
        – a password strength in Calamares installer changed from 8 to 6 signs (minimum)
        – torrent files use the DistroWatch tracker as default now (thank’s a lot), but can be found at LinuxTracker service too, as before

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

    • Fedora

      • Moving from fedmsg to fedora-messaging

        The Fedora infrastructure is working on replacing our current message bus fedmsg by a new library fedora-messaging based on AMQP. This is an update on the work currently in progress.

        After deploying a RabbitMQ cluster and bridges to duplicate messages from fedmsg to the fedora-messaging and from fedora-messaging to fedmsg. We are now starting the migration of application to fedora-messaging.

      • EPEL: Python34->Python36 Move Happening (Currently in EPEL-testing)

        Over the last 5 days, Troy Dawson, Jeroen van Meeuwen, Carl W George, and several helpers have gotten nearly all of the python34 packages moves over to python36 in EPEL-7. They are being included in 6 Bodhi pushes because of a limitation in Bodhi for the text size of packages in an include.

        The current day for these package groups to move into EPEL regular is April 2nd. We would like to have all tests we find in the next week or so also added so that the updates can occur in a large group without too much breakage.

      • Fedora Magazine: Libravatar has a new home

        The project originated from the will to have a free, as in freedom, service alternative to Gravatar, giving the users the possibility to use a hosted service or to run their own instance of the service and have full control of their data.

        In April 2018 the Libravatar project announced that the service will be shutting down. The service is/was being used by many communities like Fedora, Mozilla and the Linux Kernel to name a few. The announcement triggered a big response from the community, of people interested and willing to help to keep it running.

      • Streamlio Launches Streamlio Cloud, Firefox Announces Firefox Send, GraphQL Foundation Collaborating with the Joint Development Foundation, the Fedora Project Is Sponsoring Libravatar and the Linux Foundation Announces Community Bridge

        The Fedora Project is now sponsoring Libravatar, the “free and open source service that anyone can use to host and share an avatar (profile picture) to other websites”. The Libravatar blog describes the project as “part of a movement working to give control back to people, away from centralized services and the organizations running them. It addresses a simple problem: putting a face on an email address.” The Libravatar project had announced it was shutting down about a year ago, but the Fedora Project worked with the community to keep it alive.

      • Flatpak 1.3 Brings Support For Multiple NVIDIA GPUs, Sandboxed DConf

        The Flatpak 1.3 unstable series has kicked off starting the latest round of feature work to this leading Linux sandboxing / app distribution technology.

        Flatpak 1.3.0 is available for testing as the first unstable/development release for what will eventually become Flatpak 1.4. The Flatpak 1.3 release now supports multiple NVIDIA GPUs, support for systems where /var/run is a symlink (e.g. Gentoo), initial support for sandboxed DConf support, and generating the AppStream branch is now much faster on large repositories, among other improvements. There’s also the usual assortment of bug fixing and some translation updates in this release.

      • Flatpak 1.3 Arrives with Support for Linux Systems with Multiple Nvidia Devices

        Flatpak developer and maintainer Alexander Larsson released a new unstable release of the Linux application sandboxing and distribution framework, targeting the upcoming Flatpak 1.4 stable series.

        Flatpak 1.3 is here as the first milestone is a series of unstable releases towards the next major and stable new version of the Linux application sandboxing and distribution framework, Flatpak 1.4, adding several new features and improvements like support for systems with multiple Nvidia devices.

        Furthermore, the Flatpak 1.3 release adds initial support for sandboxed dconf, introduces two new options to the build-update-repo command, namely –no-update-[summary,appstream] and –static-delta-ignore-ref=PATTERN, and improves support for large repositories by making regeneration the appstream branch faster.

      • New package in Fedora: python-xslxwriter
    • Debian Family

      • Leaderless Debian

        One of the traditional rites of the (northern hemisphere) spring is the election for the Debian project leader. Over a six-week period, interested candidates put their names forward, describe their vision for the project as a whole, answer questions from Debian developers, then wait and watch while the votes come in. But what would happen if Debian were to hold an election and no candidates stepped forward? The Debian project has just found itself in that situation and is trying to figure out what will happen next.

      • Leaderless Debian

        The Debian constitution describes the process for electing the leader. Six weeks prior to the end of the current leader’s term, a call for candidates goes out. Only those recognized as Debian developers are eligible to run; they get one week to declare their intentions. There follows a three-week campaigning period, then two weeks for developers to cast their votes. This being Debian, there is always a “none of the above” option on the ballot; should this option win, the whole process restarts from the beginning.

        This year, the call for nominations was duly sent out by project secretary Kurt Roeckx on March 3. But, as of March 10, no eligible candidates had put their names forward. Lamb has been conspicuous in his absence from the discussion, with the obvious implication that he does not wish to run for a third term. So, it would seem, the nomination period has come to a close and the campaigning period has begun, but there is nobody there to do any campaigning.

        This being Debian, the constitution naturally describes what is to happen in this situation: the nomination period is extended for another week. Any Debian developers who procrastinated past the deadline now have another seven days in which to get their nominations in; the new deadline is March 17. Should this deadline also pass without candidates, it will be extended for another week; this loop will repeat indefinitely until somebody gives in and submits their name.

      • Daniel Pocock: The risks of secret punishments in online communities

        While the controversy over the integrity of elections in free software communities is significant, a far more serious issue for all communities right now is the spectre of secret punishments and other practices that involve shaming people. Debian has recently experimented with these practices and it would be wise to ensure they are not repeated or replicated in any other community.

        Secret punishments exploit shame to maintain secrecy and avoid controversy. For example, many pedophiles know they can keep offending because shame will keep their victims from talking.

        This reveals an interesting feature of shame: people feel shame whether they did something wrong or not. An innocent 13-year-old victim of a pedophile feels shame. A rogue trader who knows he is guilty feels shame too. It is much the same emotion.

        Not everybody responds the same way however. Consider the recent prosecution of Cardinal Pell in my home town, Melbourne, Australia. I went to Catholic schools and a number of relatives worked in Catholic education, in the administration down the road from St Patrick’s Cathedral, where Pell would wander in from time to time for meetings. I used to row past St Kevin’s almost every day. I met many people from St Kevin’s during university too. It is unusual for me to see Cardinal Pell in this situation and I can’t help contemplating people on both sides of the case. Consider one key fact from the trial: of the two boys who were allegedly abused, one has died from a drug overdose and there was no evidence that he ever told anybody about Pell’s offenses at any point in his life. Shame prevented him from talking. Yet some victims of this abuse do choose to come forward.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 19.04 Default Background Wallpaper Is Revealed

            The default background wallpaper of Ubuntu 19.04 is revealed. One in colour, one in black and white.

            Ubuntu 19.04, codename ‘Disco Dingo’, will be released on April 18, 2019. It will ship with Linux Kernel 5.0 and Gnome 3.32 (due in spring).

            Now the default background wallpaper for Gnome desktop is available.

          • Ubuntu Desktop To Auto-Install Necessary VM Tools/Drivers When Running On VMware

            In seeking to improve the out-of-the-box experience when running the Ubuntu desktop as a guest virtual machine within VMware’s products, Ubuntu is planning on having the open-vm-tools-desktop package be automatically installed for providing a better initial experience.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South

    Control over how technology works forms the foundation of digital colonialism. Software is often proprietary, which means that users cannot read, modify, or share the source code. This prevents them from understanding and controlling how their computers work.

    The public cannot hold Big Tech corporations accountable if they cannot take direct action to change how their software works.

    It is for this reason that American software programmer Richard Stallman started advocating for Free and Open Source Software in the early 1980s. “A nonfree program is a yoke, an instrument of unjust power,” Stallman reasoned.

    People should be given the freedom to control their computers, which requires them having access to software source code – the set of instructions that tells your computer what to do.

    Free Software licenses are written to invert the authoritarian power of proprietary software: They secure the user’s freedom to use, study, modify, and share the software. They keep software free and open for everyone and enable accountability.

    For example, Microsoft configures its Windows operating system to spy on its users. If it were not under the proprietary control of Microsoft, computer hacktivists would surely strip out its spying services and release a modified, “spy-free” version of Windows for the public.

    However, Free Software alone is not enough to protect the public interest because in recent years, surveillance capitalism has given rise to centralised Internet services outside of user control. Platforms like Facebook function as “information intermediaries” which stand between end users. Want to send a picture to a friend? You send it to Facebook first, and then your friend downloads it from Facebook.

    With the shift to centralised services run by corporate giants, the surveillance of users sky-rocketed. Cloud computing plays a key role. While Free Software creates accountability for software running inside your own device, it cannot produce accountability for cloud services run by corporations. This is because the software is running on someone else’s computer (Facebook, Google, etc). Corporate clouds dispossess the people of the ability to control their computers.

    Cloud services provide petabytes of information to corporations, who use the data to train their artificial intelligence systems. AI uses Big Data to “learn” – it requires millions of pictures to “understand” how to recognise, say, the letter “A” in its different fonts and forms. In this sense, “data is the new oil”.

    When applied to humans, the sensitive details of people’s personal lives become an incredibly valuable resource that tech giants are incessantly trying to extract.

  • Red Team to help secure open-source software

    Who doesn’t want to secure software? After all, every day, there’s another major security violation bubbles up from the swamp of bad programs. To help deal with this, at the Open Source Leadership Summit, the Linux Foundation announced the Red Team Project.

    Red Teams, for those who don’t live in the security-world, are a way of testing the effectiveness of a company or group’s security program. It does this by emulating how attackers so after your systems in the real world.

  • Source-code access for the long haul

    Corporations that get their feet wet in the sea of free software often find out that not only do they now have obligations to provide source code, but that people will actually try to access it and complain loudly if they can’t get it. At the first Copyleft Conference, Alexios Zavras from Intel spoke alongside Stefano Zacchiroli from Software Heritage about how the two organizations are working together. Software Heritage’s mission makes it ideally suited to host Intel’s many source-code releases in a way that provides stable long-term repositories that Intel can then reference.

    This year’s FOSDEM was its 19th edition, and it’s now a regular and much-loved part of the European free-software year. But for the first time, the Software Freedom Conservancy organized a one-day Copyleft Conference immediately following FOSDEM in Brussels; it is intended to allow a more in-depth exploration of copyleft issues than the Legal and Policy Issues devroom at FOSDEM can accommodate.

  • Amazon steps up its open-source game, and Elastic stock falls as a result

    Open-source search software company Elastic saw its stock fall as much as 5 percent on Tuesday after Amazon Web Services announced the launch of a separate library of open-source code for Elasticsearch, a set of technologies that can be use to build search engines for web sites, and an important part of Elastic’s business.

  • Events

    • Cloud Native Computing Foundation Announces Schedule for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2019

      T​he Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which sustains and integrates open source technologies like Kubernetes® and Prometheus, today announced the session line-up for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe on May 20-23, 2019, in Barcelona. The event features real-world case studies using Kubernetes and other cloud native technologies from experts at ADMIRALTY, Booking.com, British Telecom, Carnegie Mellon, eBay, Engel & Völkers Technology, ING, LinkedIn, LSST & French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3), Mediakind, McKesson, VTT, and more.

      After the largest ever KubeCon last December in Seattle with more than 8,000 attendees, KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe will bring together more than 10,000 technologists from thriving open source communities across the world to further collaboration around cloud native computing. Maintainers and end users of CNCF’s hosted projects – including Kubernetes, Prometheus, Envoy, CoreDNS, containerd, OpenTracing, Fluentd, gRPC, rkt, CNI, Jaeger, Notary, TUF, Vitess, NATS, Rook, Harbor, etcd, Linkerd, and Helm – and other cloud native technologies will gather for four days to share insights and encourage participation in this fast growing ecosystem. Register for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe by March 20 to save up to $300.

    • Linux Plumbers Conference 2019 Call for Microconference Proposals

      We are pleased to announce the Call for Microconferences for the 2019 edition of the Linux Plumbers Conference, which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal on September 9-11 in conjunction with the Linux Kernel Maintainer Summit.

    • Linux Plumbers Conference 2019 Call for Refereed-Track Proposals

      We are pleased to announce the Call for Refereed-Track talk proposals for the 2019 edition of the Linux Plumbers Conference, which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal on September 9-11 in conjunction with the Linux Kernel Maintainer Summit.

      Refereed track presentations are 50 minutes in length (which includes time for questions and discussion) and should focus on a specific aspect of the “plumbing” in the Linux system. Examples of Linux plumbing include core kernel subsystems, toolchains, container runtimes, core libraries, windowing systems, management tools, device support, media creation/playback, and so on. The best presentations are not about finished work, but rather problems, proposals, or proof-of-concept solutions that require face-to-face discussions and debate.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox Send: Free and Encrypted File Sharing Service from Mozilla

        Mozilla Firefox has announced the stable release of its free and encrypted file sharing service Firefox Send. Learn more about it.

        Imagine you went to a social gathering your friends, family or colleagues. You took a bunch of photos and now everyone is asking you to share those photos. What are your options?

        You can share photos via WhatsApp but they will be compressed. Sharing the photos as document (to preserve quality) might confuse people.

        You can copy everything to a USB key and give the USB to others. This is so ‘early 21st century’ and with a risk of not getting your USB key back.

      • Doubling the Number of Content Processes in Firefox

        Over the past year, the Fission MemShrink project has been working tirelessly to reduce the memory overhead of Firefox. The goal is to allow us to start spinning up more processes while still maintaining a reasonable memory footprint. I’m happy to announce that we’ve seen the fruits of this labor: as of version 66 we’re doubling the default number of content processes from 4 to 8.

        Doubling the number of content processes is the logical extension of the e10s-multi project. Back when that project wrapped up we chose to limit the default number of processes to 4 in order to balance the benefits of multiple content processes — fewer crashes, better site isolation, improved performance when loading multiple pages — with the impact on memory usage for our users.

        Our telemetry has looked really good: if we compare beta 59 (roughly when this project started) with beta 66, where we decided to let the increase be shipped to our regular users, we see a virtually unchanged total memory usage for our 25th, median, and 75th percentile and a modest 9% increase for the 95th percentile on Windows 64-bit.

      • Use Selinux with Firefox.
      • Get better password management with Firefox Lockbox on iPad [Ed: Apple in is NSA PRISM. There are back doors and data-sharing, passwords included.]

        We access the web on all sorts of devices from our laptop to our phone to our tablets. And we need our passwords everywhere to log into an account. This is why we made Firefox Lockbox, a way to securely track your Firefox passwords and access them anywhere.

      • Mozilla Firefox Lite Android App Officially Unveiled In India

        After getting a soft launch last year, Mozilla has officially launched the Firefox Lite Android version at an event in India.

        Additionally, Mozilla has collaborated with various companies such as Times Internet, DB Digital and MoMagic to enhance its presence in India.


        For those who don’t know, Firefox Lite is now available in 15 markets in Asia including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

        Lite-er versions of apps have been quite prevalent in developing countries such as India, where such apps prove apt for low-end smartphones catering to tier 2 and tier 3 segments, which could also prove beneficial for Mozilla.

      • A Look Back at the History of Firefox

        In the early 1990s, a young man named Marc Andreessen was working on his bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Illinois. While there, he started working for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. During that time Sir Tim Berners-Lee released an early form of the web standards that we know today. Marc was introduced to a very primitive web browser named ViolaWWW. Seeing that the technology had potential, Marc and Eric Bina created an easy to install browser for Unix named NCSA Mosaic). The first alpha was released in June 1993. By September, there were ports to Windows and Macintosh. Mosaic became very popular because it was easier to use than other browsing software.

        In 1994, Marc graduated and moved to California. He was approached by Jim Clark, who had made his money selling computer hardware and software. Clark had used Mosaic and saw the financial possibilities of the internet. Clark recruited Marc and Eric to start an internet software company. The company was originally named Mosaic Communications Corporation, however, the University of Illinois did not like their use of the name Mosaic. As a result, the company name was changed to Netscape Communications Corporation.

        The company’s first project was an online gaming network for the Nintendo 64, but that fell through. The first product they released was a web browser named Mosaic Netscape 0.9, subsequently renamed Netscape Navigator. Internally, the browser project was codenamed mozilla, which stood for “Mosaic killer”. An employee created a cartoon of a Godzilla like creature. They wanted to take out the competition.

      • Firefox Send – Securely Transfer Large Files for Free

        We have covered several file sharing applications over time with apps like Wormhole, EasyJoin, and Android File Transfer For Linux. Today, we introduce you to Firefox’s recently released file sharing service, Firefox Send.

        Firefox Send is a free, encrypted file sharing service that enables you to privately share files up to 1GB (and files up to 2GB using a Firefox account) with privileged parties. How does it work? Upload the files that you want to share and send the link to the recipients who just have to click the download button.

        Send uses end-to-end encryption coupled with an extra layer of security that you can advantage of by password-protecting the links. That way, people who are able to access the download link will not be able to use.

  • LibreOffice

  • Licensing/Legal

    • MongoDB backs off unpopular license; MDB +4%

      Key quote: “We continue to believe that the SSPL complies with the Open Source Definition and the four essential software freedoms. However, based on its reception by the members of this list and the greater open source community, the community consensus required to support OSI approval does not currently appear to exist regarding the copyleft provision of SSPL. Thus, in order to be respectful of the time and efforts of the OSI board and this list’s members, we are hereby withdrawing the SSPL from OSI consideration.”

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Searchable list of certified open hardware projects

        Open source hardware is hardware that is, well, open source. The Open Source Hardware Association maintains a formal definition of open source hardware, but fundamentally, open source hardware is about two types of freedom. The first is freedom of information: Does a user have the information required to understand, replicate, and build upon the hardware? The second is freedom from legal barriers: Will legal barriers (such as intellectual property rights) prevent a user who is trying to understand, replicate, and build upon the hardware from doing so? True open source hardware is open to everyone to do with as they see fit.

      • Intel, RISC-V Rally Rival Groups

        Intel and RISC-V backers announced rival alliances to nurture competing ecosystems around tomorrow’s processors.

  • Programming/Development

    • Tokenization, Stemming, and Lemmatization with SpaCy Library

      In the previous article, we started our discussion about how to do natural language processing with Python. We saw how to read and write text and PDF files. In this article, we will start working with the spaCy library to perform a few more basic NLP tasks such as tokenization, stemming and lemmatization.

    • Next C++ workshop: Classes and Arrays, 14 March at 19:00 UTC

      Yes, it’s that time again! You can improve your C++ skills with the help of LibreOffice developers: we’re running regular workshops which focus on a specific topic, and are accompanied by a real-time IRC meeting. For the next one, the topics are Classes and Arrays. Start by watching this presentation:

      Please confirm that you want to play a YouTube video. By accepting, you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

    • This Week in Rust 277

      Always wanted to contribute to open-source projects but didn’t know where to start? Every week we highlight some tasks from the Rust community for you to pick and get started!

    • Further modifying the stock and forex application

      In this chapter we will continue to develop our Forex and Stock application. We have created a method to retrieve and plot the stock value vs time interval on a graph in the previous chapter and in this chapter we will create a combo box and populate it with the stock symbols so a user can select any stock he wishes to plot before calling the plot stock exchange method again.

    • Exit the game on the main menu page or during the game stage

      In this chapter we will edit the main file of the pygame project so when we click on the ?x? button on the top right of the game window during the game stage or we click on the exit button on the main menu page, the current game level will be saved and the game will exit. The position of the exit button on the start scene class remains unchanged so the only file we need to edit is the main file where we will create an exit button rectangle which will be used to determine whether the exit button has been clicked or not, if so then the game will exit. Or else if the ?x? button has been clicked then the game will exit as well.

    • Keep on removing the second item in a list with python
    • Coding in Python 16 – For Loops
    • Coding in Python 17 – Tuples
    • Coding in Python 18 – The OS Module
    • PyTorch Tutorial with Linear Regression
    • Understanding the Python Mock Object Library

      When you’re writing robust code, tests are essential for verifying that your application logic is correct, reliable, and efficient. However, the value of your tests depends on how well they demonstrate these criteria. Obstacles such as complex logic and unpredictable dependencies make writing valuable tests difficult. The Python mock object library, unittest.mock, can help you overcome these obstacles.

    • Commencing Security, Accessibility, and Internationalization Improvements to PyPI for 2019

      The Python Software Foundation (PSF) and PSF Packaging Working Group are excited to announce that the first round of slated improvements to PyPI for 2019 are underway. This Open Technology Fund funded project will bring improvements to the accessibility and security of the service. You can read more about the scope of this project in our request for proposals document.

    • PyCharm 2019.1 Release Candidate
    • Talk Python to Me: #203 Beginners and Experts in Software Development

      What’s it like to be a beginner in software development? How about learning Python for the first time? This episode is a special panel episode and is the first of a two-part series we are doing on the podcast called Beginners and Experts.

    • Tuple ordering and deep comparisons in Python

      Comparing things in Python. That sounds like something that almost doesn’t even need to be taught. But I’ve found that Python’s comparison operators are often misunderstood and under-appreciated by newer Pythonistas.

      Let’s review how Python’s comparison operators work on different types of objects and then take a look at how we can use this to improve the readability of our code.

    • The AWK Command | BASH Basics

      When I was first starting out as a sysadmin and I wanted to know what it took to get promoted, one of the things that I was told was that I needed to know the BASH utilities such as AWK. I am not sure that AWK is actually a utility, it was originally intended to be a data-driven programming language when Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger and Brian Kernighan wrote it at Bell Labs. The name comes from the initials of their last names in fact, but the program that we use in BASH on Linux is (G)AWK or Gnu AWK and there are many derivatives.

    • Linux C Programming Tutorial Part 11 – Arithmetic, Relational, and Logical operators

      Up until now, in this C programming tutorial series, we have discussed about basic things like functions, arrays, variables, and more. Continuing with the flow, in this tutorial, we will discuss another such basic concept: operators.

    • Why Linux System Administrators Need Programming Skills

      In simple terms, System Administration refers to the management of hardware and software systems. Some of the major tasks performed by a system administrator include adding and removing hardware, installing operating systems, creating, managing and removing users and groups, installing, upgrading and removing software, performing backups and monitoring the system.

      A system administrator is also responsible for troubleshooting, documentation and, importantly securing a system. On the other hand, programming is concerned with writing scripts, programs to developing user applications or software.

      Does a Linux system administrator need programming skills? In this article, we will elaborate on answer to this question. We will explain why learning programming concepts are significant for Linux system administration.

      This article is specifically prepared for Linux users aspiring to become professional sysadmins (from now on referring to system administrators).

  • Standards/Consortia

    • When “Zoë” !== “Zoë”. Or why you need to normalize Unicode strings

      It first hit me many years ago, when I was building an app (in Objective-C) that imported a list of people from an user’s address book and social media graph, and filtered out duplicates. In certain situations, I would see the same person added twice because the names wouldn’t compare as equal strings.

      In fact, while the two strings above look identical on screen, the way they’re represented on disk, the bytes saved in the file, are different. In the first “Zoë”, the ë character (e with umlaut) was represented a single Unicode code point, while in the second case it was in the decomposed form. If you’re dealing with Unicode strings in your application, you need to take into account that characters could be represented in multiple ways.


  • Science

    • Making Waves: Notable Women in Ocean Science

      In recognition of Women’s History Month, we’re honoring a few notable women with careers tied to ocean science. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it pays homage to some of the women who defied social convention and paved the way for scientists, regardless of their gender, to protect, study, and explore the ocean and ocean life.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • 36 Beagles Could Die if Dow Pesticide Test Isn’t Stopped, Investigation Reveals

      Thirty-six beagles are in danger of being euthanized at the end of a pesticide test by Dow AgroSciences, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) revealed Tuesday.

      The beagles’ potential fate was only one of several shocking revelations uncovered by an almost 100-day HSUS investigation into the testing of beagles and hounds at Charles River Laboratories in Michigan.

    • There are more than 60,000 dogs used annually in experiments at hundreds of labs across the country

      There are more than 60,000 dogs used annually in experiments at hundreds of labs across the country

    • Trump’s Greedy 2019 Budget Goes Nuclear on Medicare and Medicaid

      Today, the Trump Administration unveiled their 4.75 Trillion dollar budget proposal, and it’s chock full of that signature brand of waste, fraud, and abuse Trump pledged to eliminate on the campaign trail.

      It’s easy to get distracted by the President’s more outlandish scandals and statements, but his budget proposal is actually far more insidious.

      This budget would be the U.S government’s largest ever, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t also such a morally bankrupt document.

      It contains a 5% increase in defense spending the Pentagon has not requested and 8.6 billion for a border wall. Oh, and don’t forget he has to account for massive corporate tax cuts that made it possible for health insurance giants to avoid paying any federal taxes in 2018.

      You can guess what he cut to offset those costs: a jaw-dropping $1.1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and Medicare over the next decade.

    • EPA Proposes Use of 650,000 Pounds of Antibiotics Per Year on Citrus Fields

      If that proposal is approved, citrus growers could spray more than 650,000 pounds of the antibiotic streptomycin on citrus fields every year to treat the bacteria that causes citrus greening disease. Streptomycin belongs to a class of antibiotics considered critically important to human health by the World Health Organization. By contrast, people in America only use 14,000 pounds of that antibiotic class each year.

      “The more you use antibiotics, the greater the risk that bacteria resistant to the drugs will flourish and spread. The bottom line is that the potential problems created by spraying massive amounts of streptomycin on citrus fields could outweigh the original problem the EPA wants to solve,” said Matt Wellington, U.S. PIRG’s Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics campaign director.

    • Wheeler’s poison plan is a threat to families’ health and safety

      Senate Republicans recently voted to confirm former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as the permanent administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Though tasked with protecting Americans’ health and environment, Wheeler is instead attempting to force through a deadly plan to weaken lifesaving protections from mercury pollution.

      Mercury is poison, and Wheeler’s scheme is a poison plan.

      Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent brain damage to infants and children exposed to mercury in the womb, including long-term impacts on their memory, cognitive functioning, language and fine motor skills. Wheeler’s proposal would undermine lifesaving safeguards that are effectively limiting the amount of mercury pollution from power plants. By pursuing this deadly agenda, he is jeopardizing the health and well-being of millions of Americans.

      As a mother, I am grateful that I brought two healthy sons into the world. While I was expecting, I made sure to follow my doctor’s instructions — eating balanced meals, drinking plenty of water, getting enough rest, avoiding alcohol and even over-the-counter medications. I wanted to be sure to give these little ones the best chance to thrive both before and after they were born.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • US Must Respect Iran

      One of the lessons from our recent visit to Iran as a Peace Delegation is that Iran is a mature country. It is 2,500 years old, ten times as old as the United States and one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations with settlements dating back to 7,000 BC. It was an empire that controlled almost half the Earth for over 1,000 years. It is hard not to see the US-Iran relationship as one between an adolescent bully and a mature nation.

      The root cause of the problems between the United States and Iran is not because Iran has oil, an Islamic government, nuclear weapons or Iran’s role in the Middle East — it is because in 1979, Iran ended 26 years of US domination. Foreign Minister Zarif explained to our Peace Delegation:

      “…the U.S. difficulty with Iran is not because of the region, not because of human rights, not because of weapons, not because of the nuclear issue – it’s just because we decided to be independent – that’s it – that’s our biggest crime.”

      Since the 1979 Revolution, the US has sought to dominate Iran using sanctions and threats of military aggression. Iran has responded by seeking negotiation with the US. The Iran Nuclear Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA), which took over ten years to finalize, was viewed by Dr. Zarif as a first step toward more agreements.

    • A New Regional Order: Producing Cross-Economic, Political, and Cultural Interests Among the People of Kashmir

      Indian nationalists are quick to claim their intractable hold on Kashmiris; Pakistani nationalists are just as quick to claim to speak for Kashmiris. Kashmir, despite having a real internal history and a place in the world, is suppressed by its positioning in the Indo-Pak conflict.


      In one of my favorite novels, Shadow Lines, the author, Amitav Ghosh, shows that the nation is rendered all the more threatening when the war that leads to its construction is internecine and does not bind Muslim to Hindu or Bengali to Kashmiri but rather sunders Bengali from Bengali, Kashmiri from Kashmiri. Such an irregular was polarizes ethnic groups into Hindus and Muslims who are required to disaffirm their cultural, linguistic, and social unities.

      As one of the characters in Ghosh’s novel wonders, “And then I think to myself why can’t they draw thousands of little lines through the whole subcontinent and give every little place a new name? What would it change? It’s a mirage; the whole thing is a mirage. How can anyone deny a memory?” (247).

      The Partition is a vivid manifestation of the claim that postcolonial nations are founded in a bloody severance of the umbilical cord, one that fortifies borders between nation-states with irrational and remorseless violence. The discourse of ultra-right wing nationalism, however, affects to make sense of the absurd loss of lives.

    • Empire Unravelling: Will Huawei Become Washington’s Suez?

      America’s full-spectrum campaign against Chinese tech leader Huawei is coming spectacularly undone. Curtains are imminent for Washington’s tawdriest global offensive in recent memory – featuring open extortion, kidnapping, demonization and intimidation of both friends and foes.

      The signs were apparent as early as two months ago, when many governments worldwide lukewarmly greeted US calls for a boycott of Huawei’s products and services. But explicit refusals in the past week by staunch American allies Germany, Britain and New Zealand, as well as NATO member Turkey, have all but sealed the deal. After all, hardly any country outside the US-dominated Empire is signing on.

      Even 61% of CNN viewers thought the crackdown was motivated by politics, against 24% who believe Washington’s line on “protecting national security.” All that apparently persuaded POTUS Trump to tweet about winning the tech race with China “through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies.”

      Washington’s stunning defeat stems from US leaders’ hidebound hubris, their utter inability to conceive of a world in which their country was no longer No. 1 in everything significant. Such navel-gazing put them to sleep, oblivious that history has marched past them in the form of China’s Huawei Technologies. The simple fact is – as Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei has been saying – the Chinese firm is far ahead of everyone else in the development of 5G. Any nation that doesn’t want to be left behind rolling out the game-changing, next-generation communications technology has little choice but to do business with Huawei. Moreover, without fanfare the company has taken a leading role in shaping the very rules of 5G, on a global basis. Like China itself, Huawei simply cannot be contained.

    • The Boeing 737 Max 8: a Case Study in Uncreative Destruction

      On October 29, 2018, a Boeing 737 Max 8 belonging to Lion Air in Indonesia crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes after take-off. All 189 passengers and crew members were killed instantly. It is extremely unusual for planes to suffer such accidents in clear weather after having reached their cruising altitude. Flight experts concluded that the pilots were not adequately trained in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a robotics technology that lowers the nose of a plane to prevent a stall. Although there is no definitive judgement on exactly what happened, it appears to be a combination of inadequate training for the pilots and a malfunctioning MCAS.

      On Sunday, another 737 Max 8 owned by Ethiopian Airlines had the same kind of accident resulting in the death of 157 passengers and crew members. In the aftermath of the tragedy, this has led to Australia, China, Germany, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom grounding the planes.

      Looking at these two horrible tragedies that will make me think twice about getting on a plane again, I keep thinking of the title of Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s classic “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”. In essence, the use of MCAS is akin to an experimental, driverless car owned by Uber killing a pedestrian who was jaywalking on a dark road in Tempe, Arizona on May 18, 2018. The back-up driver, who was supposed to keep a sharp eye on the road to prevent such an accident, was watching reruns of the reality TV show “The Voice” at the time.

    • An Apology for a Different Plane Crash, 30 Years Later

      The tragic Ethiopian Airline plane crash recalls another passenger plane crash some 30 years ago. The latter, however, was not due to a mechanical malfunction but to U.S. missiles. And while very few Americans remember this incident, it still weighs heavy on the hearts of many Iranians–as we discovered on our recent trip there.

      The tragic downing of the commercial passenger airline, Iran Air Flight 655, happened on July 3, 1988. A U.S. Navy ship called the Vincennes was stationed in the Persian Gulf to protect oil trade routes. The plane had just taken off from nearby Bandar Abbas International Airport in southern Iran when U.S. personnel on the warship fired two surface-to-air missiles. The flight was still in Iranian airspace, climbing on its regularly scheduled flight to Dubai, when it was hit. The plane disintegrated immediately and crashed into the water, killing all 290 onboard–274 passengers and 16 crew members.

      According to the U.S. government, this was an accident: the crew thought the Iranian Airbus A300 was an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.

    • An Open Letter to Boeing: Put Passengers First, Ground the 737 MAX 8 Now!

      I called Boeing’s office in Washington, D.C. about the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, with over 300 fatalities, to give them some advice.

    • Nader’s Message to Boeing: Ground the Planes Now

      Consumer advocate Ralph Nader believes Boeing should ground its fleet of 737 Max 8 airplanes.

      The message comes as the world struggles to understand what happened to Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed Sunday, March 10, killing 157. The accident came just four months after the crash of Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 in October—also a 737 Max 8.

      Nader’s grand-niece, Samya Stumo, died in the crash. The Sheffield, Mass., native was an employee of education publisher ThinkWell and was ultimately headed to Uganda for work.

      In an open letter to Boeing executives published Wednesday, Nader said that the airplane manufacturer was behaving as a company “used to having its way” and not in the interests of American lives.

      “Stop digging in your heels,” Nader wrote. “Tell the airlines to stop digging in their heels.”

      In response to the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, most countries across the world grounded the planes. The European Union shut down flights by the plane, taking down a fleet that makes up two thirds of the total number of planes in use. The U.S. stands almost alone in its continued use of the 737 Max 8.

    • Ralph Nader’s Grandniece Died in Ethiopian Plane Crash; Now He Is Urging Boycott of Boeing Jet

      Calls are growing for the United States to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in the wake of a devastating plane crash in Ethiopia Sunday that left 157 people dead. It is the aircraft model’s second fatal crash in the past five months. An Indonesian flight of the same plane type crashed last October, killing 189 people. In response, two-thirds of the 737 MAX 8s have been pulled from service. At least 41 countries across the globe, from China to Turkey to India, have grounded their fleets of the aircraft until a thorough safety review is conducted. Despite international outcry, the United States and Canada are continuing business as usual. We speak with Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His great-niece, Samya Stumo, died on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Nader wrote an open letter to Boeing titled “Passengers First, Ground the 737 MAX 8 Now!” And we speak with William McGee, aviation journalist for Consumer Reports. He is the author of “Attention All Passengers: The Airlines’ Dangerous Descent.”

    • Several Boeing 737 Max 8 pilots in U.S. complained about suspected safety flaw

      Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient” several months before Sunday’s Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found.
      The News found five complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.
      The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports about an October Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in Indonesia that killed 189.

    • An Open Letter to Boeing Executives: Passengers First, Ground the 737 MAX 8 Now!

      You don’t seem to see the writing on the Wall. Your Boeing 737 MAX 8 is being grounded by more and more countries and foreign airlines. Airline passengers in the U.S. are switching away their reservations on this plane and there are signs of an organized boycott of this aircraft which is used by the major U.S. airlines.

      It is only a matter of time before the bereaved families organize, before members of Congress start forcefully speaking out, as Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal just did. Both Senators are on the Senate’s Aviation Subcommittee.

      Soon the technical dissenters in the reported “heated discussions” with FAA, the airline industry, the pilot unions and your company will see some internal e-mails, memos, and whistleblowers go public. Technical dissent cannot be repressed indefinitely.

      Your own lawyers should be counselling you that Boeing is on public notice and that, heaven forbid, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash in this country, the arrogance of your algorithms overpowering the pilots, can move law enforcement to investigate potential personal criminal negligence.

      Clearly, you run a company used to having its way. Used to having a patsy FAA, with its “tombstone mentality,” used to delaying airworthiness directives that should be put out immediately, and not diluted and delayed, used to getting free government R&D and used to avoiding state and federal taxes.

      Stop digging in your heels. Tell the airlines to stop digging in their heels. Public trust in your Boeing 737 MAX 8 is eroding fast. Get ahead of the curve that is surely heading your way.

      You see the Boeing 737 MAX 8 as being a large part of your passenger aircraft business. You’ve delivered over 300 planes and reportedly have over 3000 orders. Over the years, your engineers have solved many technical problems brilliantly. The domestic safety record of the major airlines, using your equipment, has been very commendable for more than a decade. A lot of the credit goes to Boeing as well as to the airline pilots, flight attendants, traffic controllers, and mechanics.

    • On CNN, U.S. Foreign Policy Gatekeepers Vilify Tulsi Gabbard For Her Anti-Intervention Dissent

      Representative Tulsi Gabbard has made reforming United States foreign policy, particularly ending what she calls “regime change wars” and the “new Cold War and nuclear arms race,” central to her 2020 presidential campaign. She is virtually the only presidential candidate warning of the specter of nuclear war.

      At a CNN town hall at South By Southwest on March 10, Gabbard contended, “We are in a situation today where we, here in the United States and the world, are at a greater risk of nuclear catastrophe than ever before in history.”

      “My commitment in fighting to end these counterproductive regime change wars is based on these experiences and my understanding [of] the cost of war and who pays the price,” Gabbard added. “Yes, it is our service members. It is our troops. It is our military families. It is the people in these countries, where these wars are waged, whose suffering ends up far worse after we launch these regime change wars.”

      Yet, the establishment news media is largely uninterested in listening to Gabbard attempt to persuade voters that the U.S. should quit waging wars to overthrow governments. They hear Gabbard’s statements and think if the U.S. pursued an anti-interventionist foreign policy then dictators would be free to commit crimes against humanity and repress their people without any consequences.

      Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, could be an effective messenger for anti-interventionist policies. She was deployed in a war based on lies. So, to obstruct her from gaining supporters, the pundit class obsesses over a meeting Gabbard had with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in January 2017.

    • The Rightful Owners of a Key Island Military Base for the U.S. Would Like It Back, and the UN Agrees

      Give Chagos back to the Chagossians! That’s a slogan I first heard in 2000. It was a demonstration in London, outside a courthouse, a small group of people with handmade signs appealing to the British legal system to return their islands to them. Few people paid them any attention. The courts sided with the islanders (whose case is unimpeachable) and then did nothing to enforce their verdict.

      The Chagos Archipelago is a group of 60 islands in the Indian Ocean. These islands are claimed by Mauritius, a country that won its independence from the United Kingdom in 1968. Three years before the independence of Mauritius, the British separated the Chagos Archipelago and converted it into the British Indian Ocean Territory. To cement its control over the islands, the British expelled over 2,000 Chagossians. Some of these Chagossians stood in London, fighting for their lost islands.

      At the end of February, the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the UK must give the islands back to Mauritius. In 2017, the UN General Assembly had heard the case of the islanders and referred it to the ICJ. Now, the ICJ—with a 13 to 1 ruling (the U.S. voting against)—has sided with the Chagossians. But this is not a binding ruling, and the British government has said it would ignore the International Court of Justice.

    • The Israel Liability: Moral and Strategic Hazards of an Ill-Advised Alliance

      Blindly backing Israel has become an article of faith, a civic religion even, for mainstream American politicians. Rarely do any dare publicly question the costs and benefits of this decades-old relationship. Such hesitancy is understandable. After all, to criticize Israeli policy, however mildly, is to risk near certain rebuke and reflexive charges of anti-semitism. Denouncing Israel’s current right-wing government or its ongoing, half-century-long occupation of Palestinian Territories is all risk and no reward – it’s a potential career-ender or, at least, a ticket to the margins of polite political discourse. Israel/Palestine is, as I’ve long said, the veritable “third-rail” of U.S. foreign policy debate.

      Nonetheless, regarding the U.S.-Israel nexus, the time is now for reassessment and realignment. For far too long, Washington’s bipartisan, reflexive backing of Israel has damaged America’s good name on the Arab (or Muslim) “street,” and inflicted substantial strategic costs in the Greater Middle East. As President Trump, ostensibly, gears up to withdraw the US military from a series of regional quagmires, he should simultaneously address one root of America’s long-term “beef” with average Muslims – Washington’s no-strings-attached support for Israel.

      He won’t, naturally. Though Trump sometimes displays admirable instincts to ditch military liabilities in the Mideast, he has only ratcheted up America’s iron-alliance with Israel. In a staggering, and internationally isolated, move, he even moved the US embassy to Israel into the heart of Jerusalem – recognizing the contested city as the singular capital of the Jewish state. Look, Israel – like our other nefarious frenemy, Saudi Arabia – buys tons of American weapons, and Trump-the-businessman absolutely loves that. Besides, Trump and (recently indicted) Prime Minister Netanyahu are political peas in a pod – both face potential corruption charges and rely on fear-mongering to whip up support from their right wing bases.

    • Trump Pledged to End ‘Endless Wars.’ His Executive Order Suggests Just the Opposite

      In an executive order last week, President Trump ended a requirement for the government to tell the public its official count of civilians killed by U.S. military and CIA lethal strikes in countries where we are not at war. The effect is that our government will continue killing people abroad with less oversight and no accountability.

      The reporting requirement, put in place by President Barack Obama, had many shortcomings, but it was still valuable. We know, for example, that the government says 64 to 116 civilians were killed by strikes in noncombat zones between 2011 and 2015, though credible media and human rights groups say the actual number is likely much higher. Trump has now also ended the government’s commitment to explaining these discrepancies.

      The Trump administration justified its decision to end such reporting by arguing that transparency reports are duplicative because the military is required to issue similar reports. But that’s not completely true, as military figures won’t include civilian deaths from CIA strikes.

      Some in Congress reacted with alarm to Trump’s order, and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) announced that he will seek to reimpose the transparency requirement with legislation. This is a necessary step but only an initial one, because this country desperately needs to reckon with and seek an end to the president’s claimed unilateral authority to kill terrorism suspects in parts of the world where we are not at war.

      Proponents argue that these airstrikes reduce risk to U.S. forces and keep the United States from being drawn into actual or worsening wars. But without public accountability about the costs and consequences of the program, we can’t take that at face value. Nor can we accept an equation that minimizes the deaths of civilians or ignores perspectives from people in affected countries.

    • With Rollout of New Rules, Trump Admin Signs Off on ‘Purge’ of Trans Troops

      “The start of this looming purge represents an unprecedented step backward in the social and civil progress of our country and our military,” Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), said in a statement.

      President Donald Trump initially announced a ban on trans troops with a series of tweets in 2017—signaling his intention to reverse a policy implemented under former President Barack Obama in 2016 that was praised by much of the LGBTQ community.

      Trump’s attempts to expel trans people from service and block them from enlisting sparked legal challenges, but in January, the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing majority gave the green light for the administration to pursue its “bigoted” and “cruel” effort while fights in court continue.

      “The Trump administration is built on demonizing minority groups; reversing the civil rights gains of immigrants, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ movement will forever remain the hallmarks of their time in office,” Tobin said, calling on Congress to block the policy.

      Aaron Belkin is the director of the Palm Center, a think tank that has conducted research on trans people serving in the military. With these rules, he said, “the Trump administration has chosen prejudice and politics over the truth of open service as revealed by the testimonies of dozens of medical and military leaders and the service and sacrifice of 14,700 transgender service members.”

      Despite ongoing litigation, the second-in-command at the Defense Department signed off on a memo (pdf) detailing the administration’s official rules. As of April 12, transgender service members and new applicants only can serve under their “biological sex,” effectively forcing them to conceal their gender identity or leave the military.

    • Spanish Investigators Believe CIA Was Involved in Violent Attack on North Korean Embassy: Report

      Two individuals involved in a violent attack on the North Korean embassy in Madrid have reportedly been linked by Spanish authorities to the CIA.

      According to the Spanish newspaper El País, which first reported the findings of Madrid investigators, “two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy and interrogated diplomatic staff have been identified and have connections to the U.S. intelligence agency.”

      “Sources believe that the goal of the attack on the North Korean embassy was to get information on Kim Hyok Chol, the former North Korean ambassador to Spain,” El País reported on Wednesday.

      The CIA has denied involvement in the attack. But, Spanish government sources told El País that the agency’s story was “unconvincing.”

      The attack on the North Korean embassy occurred on Feb. 22, just days before U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for a summit in Hanoi.

      According to reporting from the BBC, ten masked men broke into the embassy in the middle of the afternoon and took at least eight staffers hostage. One woman was eventually able to climb out of a second-story window and contact Spanish police.

      None of the individuals believed to have been involved in the attack have been apprehended.

    • ‘What Is Terrorism?’ NYT Asks—but Offers No Answers

      “What is terrorism, and who is a terrorist?” the New York Times (3/7/19) asked in a recent report on the hindering of peace negotiations between the United States government and the Taliban in Afghanistan—without suggesting any possible answers to these questions. When the headline of a story literally includes the phrase “Big Question: What Is Terrorism?” you might think it would offer at least one plausible definition proposed by any party or individual involved in these discussions. But not a single definition is suggested by anyone in the report, written by Mujib Mashal.

      This isn’t the first time in the Times’ propagandistic coverage of the War on Terror that the paper has raised the question without attempting to answer it; a 2005 piece (8/14/05) whose headline included the big question, “What Is Terrorism?,” also didn’t propose any definitions either.

      In its recent story, the Times reported that the current snag in negotiations has to do with US negotiators insisting that the Taliban promise not to allow Afghanistan to be used by terrorist groups (implying that the Taliban should promise to abolish itself, since the Times also mentions that US leaders like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo consider the Taliban to be a terrorist group). The Taliban is reportedly balking, “saying there was no universal definition of terrorism,” but would promise not to allow Afghanistan to be used as a launching pad for international attacks.

    • Republican Senators Break With Trump on Historic Yemen Vote
    • Senate Votes Again for Ending U.S. Role in Yemen War
    • ‘This Is Historic’: US Senate Passes War Powers Resolution to End Complicity in World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis

      “This is historic. For the first time in 45 years, Congress is one step closer to withdrawing U.S. forces from an unauthorized war,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the lead sponsor of the resolution, declared following the vote. “We must end the war in Yemen.”

      Kate Gould, legislative director for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, applauded the grassroots activists who have been working tirelessly to end America’s disastrous role in Yemen.

      “The Senate has now taken a decisive step in ending the American facilitation of the Yemen war and the world’s largest humanitarian crises,” Gould said. “Millions of grassroots activists, who helped make this vote a reality, want their lawmakers to end this unconscionable war.”

      Passage of the resolution comes as the Saudis continue to launch deadly airstrikes in Yemen with U.S. backing, worsening a crisis that has already resulted in mass suffering and tens of thousands of deaths. Earlier this week, dozens of civilians—including women and young children—were killed by Saudi airstrikes in Yemen’s Kushar district.

      According to the United Nations, 14 million Yemenis could soon be on the brink of starvation if the bombing continues. Save the Children, a London-based human rights organization, estimated in a report last November that 85,000 Yemenis under the age of five have starved to death since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing the country.

    • ‘A Historic Chance to Take a Stand’: Anti-War Groups Urge Senate to End US Complicity in Yemen

      As the Senate headed toward a crucial vote to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen Wednesday, peace action groups called on Americans to keep up pressure on their representatives, demanding they vote to approve the War Powers Resolution and end the nation’s complicity in the slaughter.

      On Tuesday, Win Without War was among the groups pushing for passage of Senate Joint Resolution 7 (S.J. Res. 7) Wednesday, calling the vote a “a historic chance to take a stand” against U.S. support for a war which has, according to some estimates, killed as many as 80,000 civilians.

    • CIA implicated in attack on North Korean embassy in Madrid

      At least two of the 10 assailants who broke into the embassy and interrogated diplomatic staff have been identified and have connections to the US intelligence agency. The CIA has denied any involvement but government sources say their response was “unconvincing.”

      If it is proven that the CIA was behind the attack, it could lead to a diplomatic spat between Madrid and Washington. Government sources say that it would be “unacceptable” for an ally to take such action. Not only would it mean that the US agency had operated on Spanish soil without asking for authorization or informing the authorities, it would also be a violation of the international conventions that protect diplomatic delegations.

      What’s more, unlike other intelligence activities – such as cyberattacks, which are characterized by their discretion, the attack on the North Korean embassy was especially violent. On February 22 at 3pm, 10 masked men carrying alleged imitation weapons broke into the embassy, located north of the capital in the residential area of Aravaca. They tied up the eight people inside and put bags on their heads. The victims were beaten and interrogated. A woman managed to escape from a window on the second floor and her screams for help were heard by a neighbor, who contacted the police.

    • Give Diplomacy a Chance in Venezuela

      The United States is pushing for an overthrow of the government of Venezuela. The Trump administration has denounced Nicolas Maduro as a “dictator,” dismissing the 2018 election, which the opposition boycotted. Instead of a good neighbor policy or a policy of non-intervention, the Trump administration has set out intentionally to overthrow the regime.

      Long before Trump, the United States was a bitter opponent of the Hugo Chavez regime. The fact that Chavez was wildly popular and freely elected made no difference. He represented a revolution that embraced Fidel Castro’s Cuba and implemented plans to redistribute wealth and empower the poor. In 2002, when the Venezuelan military moved to overthrow Chavez, an official in the Bush administration reportedly met with the coup leaders. The coup attempt was frustrated, however, when Venezuelans rose up in mass against the plotters.

      Now with Chavez gone, the current president Nicolas Maduro unpopular, the economy a mess — in significant degree because the price of oil is near record lows — the Trump administration is apparently orchestrating another attempt.

      It has continued to ratchet up pressure. It has imposed brutal sanctions on Venezuela, making a bad situation far worse, all the while blaming the government for the misery. Trump has openly threatened a “military option” for Venezuela. His bellicose national security adviser, John Bolton, boasted that “The troika of tyranny in this hemisphere — Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — has finally met its match.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Jailing Chelsea Manning

      “I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury.” So explained Chelsea Manning in justifying her refusal to answer questions and comply with a grand jury subpoena compelling her to testify on her knowledge of WikiLeaks. “Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly stated ethical obligations to the grand jury system.”

      Manning, whose 35-year sentence was commuted by the Obama administration in an act of seeming leniency, is indivisibly linked to the WikiLeaks legacy of disclosure. She was the source, and the bridge, indispensable for giving Julian Assange and his publishing outfit the gold dust that made names and despoiled others.

      The sense of dredging and re-dredging in efforts to ensnare Manning is palpable. She insists that she had shared all that she knew at her court-martial, a point made clear by the extensive if convoluted nature of the prosecution’s effort to build a case. “The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case, in which I tesified [sic] for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous testimony.” Before Friday’s hearing, she also reiterated that she had invoked the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment protections.

      Grand juries have gone musty. Conceived in 12thcentury England as a feudalistic guardian against unfair prosecution, they became bodies of self-regulating and policing freemen (often barons with a gripe) charged with investigating alleged wrongdoing. Doing so provided a preliminary step in recommending whether the accused needed to go court. The US Constitution retains this element with the Fifth Amendment: that no “person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.”

    • Free-Speech Groups Support WikiLeaks Move to Dismiss DNC Lawsuit

      A trio of free-speech groups urged a U.S. judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against WikiLeaks by the Democratic National Committee over the disclosure of private DNC information, arguing that published material — even if acquired illegally — is protected by the First Amendment.

      The suit, filed by the DNC last April, accuses Russian intelligence of hacking into computers, penetrating its telephone systems, gaining access to tens of thousands of documents and emails and releasing them through WikiLeaks and other methods. The DNC also alleged that President Donald Trump’s campaign organization conspired with WikiLeaks, a claim Trump has denied.


      The groups said the Supreme Court has protected publications of “truthful information of public concern” in a series of cases over the last 50 years, including information that was published even after it was illegally acquired — as long as the publisher wasn’t involved in the unlawful collection of the material.

      “The press has relied on this protection to report on major stories — ranging from the Pentagon Papers to the Panama Papers — that inform the public and hold the powerful to account,” the groups said in their filing. “A ruling that narrowed this protection could jeopardize the well-established legal framework that has made much more important investigative and national-security journalism possible.”

    • Press Freedom Groups Urge Court to Uphold Core First Amendment Protection in DNC-Russia Lawsuit

      The First Amendment protects Wikileaks from being sued over the release of the DNC’s hacked emails.
      In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, the Democratic National Committee was hacked, and thousands of its emails and other private documents were stolen. Those documents were eventually released to the public through a website run by “Guccifer 2.0” (an online persona allegedly maintained by the Russian government) and through WikiLeaks. Early last year, the DNC sued those it believes are responsible for the hack, including the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

      The DNC also sued WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. In its complaint, the DNC alleges that WikiLeaks released the hacked documents and that WikiLeaks communicated with Guccifer 2.0 after the hack to obtain the documents and coordinate their release.

      These allegations raise an important First Amendment question with weighty implications for freedom of the press.

      On Wednesday, the ACLU, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief addressing that question — namely, whether an act of publication that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment loses that protection simply because a source acquired the published information unlawfully.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘So Magical’: 1 Billion Butterflies Flutter Into SoCal During Migration From Mexico

      The Southland is experiencing a rare sighting this week: About 1 billion butterflies swarming the skies during their migration from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest.

      The Painted Ladies have been spotted from San Diego to Pasadena. Californians took to social media to share pictures of the orange, black and white insects.

      “Everyone was posting about the butterflies all over Instagram,” one woman said. “I saw so many, it was kinda like a swarm of them. It was pretty insane.”

      Scientists say the migration isn’t new, but they haven’t seen numbers like this in almost 15 years. The reason, scientists say, is because of the unusual amount of rain in Southern California recently. The butterflies now have plenty of flowers and leaves to feed on.

      Last year, scientists feared a butterfly catastrophe as numbers of the magical insect took a nosedive. Researchers counted only 25,000 migrating Painted Ladies. This year, they estimated more than one billion.

      “I think it’s really neat just because everyone can really see the effects of how much rain we’ve been getting,” another woman said.

    • Massachusetts Hired Energy Industry Execs to ‘Independently’ Review State’s Gas System

      A private contractor employed by the state of Massachusetts to conduct a statewide safety review of its gas distribution companies hired gas industry executives for the project, documents obtained by DeSmog show. They include two former executives of National Grid — one of the companies under review — and Enbridge, a main supplier of gas in the state.

      One of the former National Grid executives was removed from the review once the state learned a family member of his currently works for the company.

      News of the hires has activists, who have been pushing the state to address its aging and leaking gas system, on edge. “We’re concerned that this assessment is led by a consultant that not only depends on the gas industry for its business, but also included two former National Grid executives and a former Enbridge executive,” said Debbie New of the group Mothers Out Front.

    • New Hampshire Town Passes Game-Changing Climate Ordinance

      Voters in Exeter, New Hampshire, fearing the impact on their community from a planned pipeline project, declared Tuesday that their town’s right to a safe and healthy climate trumps corporate profits.

      “Our right to a healthy climate is an unalienable right,” said Maura Fay, co-founder of the community group Citizen Action for Exeter’s Environment (CAEE), in a statement. “Any new energy infrastructure in our town must align with that right. We live here, and what we envision for our community comes before what any project developer and state government envision if it threatens our rights.”

      Voters passed Article 30, the Right to a Healthy Climate Ordinance, by a vote of 1,176 to 1,007

    • Trump Budget for Renewables Slashed 70% Under Former Koch Insider’s Leadership

      When President Trump nominated long-time Koch network insider and renewable energy antagonist Daniel Simmons to lead the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the administration’s priorities for federal energy programs were made abundantly clear. Simmons had, after all, been serving at the time of his nomination as Vice President for Policy at a Koch-funded think tank that had, in 2015, called for the outright elimination of the very office he was tapped to lead.

      The Trump administration budget proposal released this week, for fiscal year 2020, goes a long way toward delivering this wish to the Koch network, calling for a 70 percent reduction in funding for the EERE and scrapping entirely the Department of Energy’s loan programs. The EERE ultimately received $2.4 billion in the current 2019 budget, and the current Trump proposal would fund it at $696 million.

    • Students are Striking for Action on Climate Change—a Truancy Everyone Should Applaud

      Beginning last August, a Swedish schoolgirl named Greta Thunberg went on strike from her classes, choosing instead to spend the days on the steps of the Parliament building in Stockholm. Her reasoning: If her government couldn’t be bothered to safeguard her future by taking action against climate change, it was a bit rich to demand that she spend her time preparing for a future that might not exist. Her protest soon spread across Scandinavia, Europe, Britain and Australia.

      Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren have now participated worldwide, and the protest has drawn some prominent support: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on March 2, “I very much welcome that young people, school students, demonstrate and tell us to do something fast about climate change.” But of course others have been less understanding. During climate demonstrations in Australia, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “We do not support our schools being turned into parliaments. … What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.”

    • After Last Version Blocked, Iowa’s New Ag-Gag Bill ‘Gives Middle Finger to Free Speech, Consumer Protection, Food Safety, and Animal Welfare’

      “Without undercover investigations, there are no effective watchdogs protecting animals from egregious cruelty,” Mercy For Animals president Leah Garcés told Common Dreams. “Consumers have a right to know how their food is produced and how animals at factory farms are mistreated.”

      The legislation would create a new crime called “agricultural production facility trespass,” enabling state law enforcement to charge someone with a misdemeanor if they use “deception” to gain access to a facility “with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury to the agricultural production facility’s operations, agricultural animals, crop, owner, personnel, equipment, building, premises, business interest, or customer.”

    • A Tale of Two Carnivores: African Lions and Grizzly Bears

      I hope one day to meet lion conservationist Shivani Bhalla, a sister in spirit who lives half a world away, in northern Kenya. We are featured in BBC’s global radio program “The Conversation,” where each episode features two women from different countries, who work in similar fields. The show airs as naturalist and filmmaker David Attenborough’s new series “Dynasties” debuts in America. This time the inimitable Attenborough brings the lives of lions, chimpanzees, tigers, painted wolves and emperor penguins into our living rooms and our hearts. Living among certain families or clans over a number of years, the crew was able to capture on film dramatic turning points in the lives of these animals of the sort that most of us will never see.

      Dr. Shivani Bhalla is featured in the episode on African lions, a species that she has devoted her career to saving. I had not heard of her work or the new Attenborough series before receiving a call from the London-based BBC World Service radio producer exploring the possibility of bringing Shivani and me together by phone to share our experiences in large carnivore conservation. I don’t know much about lions and less about Kenya’s Samburu culture. Producing a podcast too has made me intimately familiar with the challenges of such an undertaking, and here I was vaulted to the top of the league. Both nervous and groggy at the ungodly early recording hour, I doubted my mind would connect to my mouth.

      But as soon as we started to chat, my brain kicked in and the continents between Shivani, host Kim Chakanetsa and me vanished. For the next hour, I felt like I was having coffee with colleagues. The flow was interrupted only once when Kim chided Shivani for clapping – while my reaction was one of delight.

      The challenges we face are uncannily similar: protected areas too small for the wide-ranging carnivores that depend on them, mounting human encroachment, and a warming climate. With extremely low birth rates, grizzlies and lions are at the mercy of humans like never before.

    • Cocoa fuel combats climate change

      Sometimes the best solutions to energy problems – and to the fight against climate change – are the simple ones, like cocoa fuel.

      Ghana is one of the world’s leading producers of cocoa – the vital ingredient in the multi-billion dollar international chocolate industry.

      Cocoa beans are extracted from inside the pod husks of the cocoa tree. Husks are usually discarded during the production process.

      Now, in a project led by specialists at the University of Nottingham in the UK, the plan is to use the husks as feedstock in bio-fuel energy installations.

      “Ghana is the second highest producer of cocoa in the world and every ton of cocoa beans harvested generates 10 tons of cocoa pod husks”, says Jo Darkwa, professor of energy storage technologies at Nottingham and one of the people behind the Ghanaian project.

    • Native Leaders Tell Congress How Trump Trampled ‘Spiritually Occupied Landscape’ to Carve Up National Monuments

      House Democrats, indigenous tribal leaders, and public land protection advocates all rebuked the Trump administration’s downsizing of two national monuments Wednesday, arguing that President Donald Trump and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acted illegally by conducting what at least one critic called a “sham” review process.

      The administration acted in the interest of pro-fossil fuel lawmakers, the oil and gas industry, and other monument opponents when they conducted a hasty review of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in 2017, critics argued.

    • With ‘Ecological Foundations of Society’ at Risk, Warns UN, Hope Resides in Urgent Global Action

      The United Nations Environment Programme’s Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), described as the most rigorous climate assessment released by the international body in the last five years, warned that continued inaction from policy-makers could result in millions of premature deaths from air pollution and other factors throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa by mid-century.

      The report also highlighted rapidly increasing rates of species extinction.

      “At present,” the authors note, “42 percent of terrestrial invertebrates, 34 percent of freshwater invertebrates, and 25 percent of marine invertebrates are considered at risk of extinction.”

      Without “urgent action at an unprecedented scale,” the report said, the “ecological foundations of society” are at risk of collapse.

      Joyeeta Gupta and Paul Ekins, co-chairs of the GEO-6 process, said in a statement that all the technology, policy ideas, and money needed to bring about ambitious global changes already exist.

      “What is currently lacking is the political will to implement policies and technologies at a sufficient speed and scale,” they said.

    • More acidic seas devour marine food web

      By the close of the century, parts of the Southern Ocean could become impoverished as more acidic seas displace abundant marine food resources. Tiny sea snails that form the basis of the food supply for one of the world’s richest ecosystems could disappear because the depth at which they can form their shells will have shifted.

      Right now, in Antarctic waters, creatures known as pteropods can exploit the calcium carbonate dissolved in the oceans down to a depth of 1000 metres to grow their shells.

      But as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels soar, as a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels by humankind, the chemistry of the oceans will shift towards the acidic.

      The ratios of two kinds of carbonate – calcite and aragonite – will alter. And by 2100, there won’t be enough aragonite.

    • It’s the Green New Deal or Else

      I suppose we all owe UCLA economist and Hoover Institution senior fellow Lee Ohanian a debt of gratitude for telling us how it is. The “free market” propagandist recently took to the pages of The Hill, a Washington, D.C., journal for political insiders, to explain that the holy laws of economics dictate that humanity must consent to its own extermination. In a piece titled “The Green New Deal is a Pipe Dream,” Ohanian drowned climate activists’ overheated dreams of ecological salvation in the icy waters of bourgeois reality, arguing that the proposed legislation’s advocates are, in fact, nefarious, big-government “command-and-control” zealots—eco-Stalinists—who want “to impose their social and economic preferences on others at an extravagantly high economic cost.”

      Ohanian described the Green New Deal’s goal of net-zero U.S. carbon emissions in 10 years as an “infeasible” aim that demonstrates a failure “to understand basic cost-benefit analysis.” If that weren’t enough, the Hoover fellow noted that “the GND would be extremely expensive” and that America lacks “the technological know-how” to reach zero carbon emissions. Ohanian further pleased the Hoover Institution’s big-business sponsors by adding his judgment that the Green New Deal’s promise of a living wage will make workers lazy and unproductive. No such promise can be fulfilled today, “when jobs can be easily offshored, outsourced, and automated,” he pronounced.

      Now that we understand these economic realities, we can prepare—without rebellion, with calm acceptance and within the limits of our stagnant incomes—for our coming extinction. Onward with the coming macroeconomic ecocide.

      Except, wait. Hold on. Maybe Ohanian is full of petroligarchic crap. Maybe there’s still hope for the species after all.

      He is, and there is.

      It’s simply not true that we lack the technological expertise to achieve zero carbon emissions. Writing for Scientific American, Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and University of California at Davis research scientist Mark Delucchi have shown repeatedly over the last decade that humanity could convert to a completely renewable energy-based system by 2030 if nations employ technologies vetted by scientists rather than those championed by private industry.

    • Volkswagen Ups Its EV Production, Aims to Be Carbon Neutral by 2050

      Volkswagen plans to go carbon neutral by 2050, the word’s current largest vehicle maker announced at a news conference Tuesday where CEO Herbert Diess acknowledged that the company’s cars caused one percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, The New York Times reported.

    • Nuclear Powers Need to Disarm Before It’s Too Late

      The recent military clash between India and Pakistan underscores the need for the major nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, and France — finally to move toward fulfilling their obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

      The Treaty’s purpose was not simply to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, but to serve as a temporary measure until Article VI could take effect: the “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

      The 191 countries that signed the NPT — the most widely subscribed nuclear treaty on the planet — did so with the understanding that the major powers would de-nuclearize. But in the 50 years since the Treaty was negotiated, the nuclear powers have yet to seriously address eliminating weapons of mass destruction.

      While over the years the Americans and the Russians have reduced the number of warheads in their arsenals, they — along with China — are currently in the midst of a major modernization of their weapon systems. Instead of a world without nuclear weapons, it is a world of nuclear apartheid, with the great powers making no move to downsize their conventional forces.

      For non-nuclear armed countries, this is the worst of all worlds.

    • I Love the Green New Deal But …

      Ever since our first ancestor lit a fire, humans have been pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Add to that the first herder because ruminants are another large emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG).

      Some people want to declare a national emergency and ban fossil fuels within ten years. How? I am for it and all ready to go. But please tell me how. Think of the quarter billion vehicles in the U.S. and the infrastructure supporting them; the myriad gas stations and repair shops and the people employed in them; the thousands of miles of domestic gas pipelines to homes using gas stoves and gas heating. Think of the restructuring, the replacement, the energy required, the megatons of metal and other materials used and their production which all require one thing — energy. And what about air travel and the shipping industry?

      What of the millions of jobs lost? Think of the jobholders and their families. Most of these workers cannot switch skills overnight. These are not just the million and a half employed in the industry directly, but include gas company employees, your gas furnace repair and maintenance man, the people building furnaces, gas stoves, the auto repair infrastructure — electric motors of course are darned reliable and need attention only to brakes, tire rotation and battery coolant checks for the most part — and so on.

    • A Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products

      In the U.S., we consume more than 15 billion pounds of tissue each year—more than 50 pounds per person. It’s taking a major toll on forests like the Canadian boreal.

    • The Climate Solution Right Under Our Feet

      The way to stop climate change might be buried in 300 square feet of earth in the Venice neighborhood of Los ­Angeles, amid kale and potatoes. A half-dozen city youth are digging through the raised bed on a quiet side street, planting tomato seedlings between peach and lime trees. Nineteen-year-old ­Calvin sweats as he works the rake. There’s a lot at stake here. The formerly homeless youngsters are tentatively exploring farming through a community outreach program started by a California nonprofit called Kiss the Ground. More importantly, they are tending to the future of our planet.

      “Soil just might save us,” filmmaker Josh Tickell says, “but we are going to have to save it first.” He wrote that in his 2017 book, also called Kiss the Ground, after becoming deeply invested in the potential of soil to reverse climate change. (The nonprofit supports the book and Tickell’s upcoming documentary about it, though he has no role with the organization.) He has experienced both soil and climate change intimately. He started to work on farms more than two decades ago for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and in 2017 he and his family had to leave their home in Ojai, fleeing devastating wildfires.

      Even as most of the world works to reduce emissions, new studies confirm that it will be impossible to stop climate change without changing agriculture. Soil degradation is slowly turning a third of the world into desert. At this rate, fertile soil will be depleted in 60 years.

      What exactly does soil have to do with climate change? In the atmosphere, too much carbon overheats the climate. But in the ground, carbon is useful.

      Loss of topsoil releases carbon into the air. Modern petroleum-fueled agriculture, beginning around 1930, has released 50 to 70 percent of soil’s carbon into the atmosphere. In a report last year, the U.N. warned that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record speed to hit a level not seen for more than 3 million years.

    • Hundreds of Thousands of Students Prepare for Global #ClimateStrike: Here Are 5 Ways You Can Help

      In 92 countries and counting, hundreds of thousands of students are planning to skip school on March 15 as part of the “School Strike 4 Climate” — a growing movement of young people demanding that policymakers worldwide take urgent and radical steps to battle the climate crisis.

      For the past several months, students around the world have joined the #FridaysForFuture school strike launched last year by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, whose solitary protests outside her country’s parliament — inspired by the Parkland students advocating for stricter gun laws in the U.S. — generated headlines that helped spur the global youth climate movement.

    • Are the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Days Numbered?

      Almost no one was surprised that the annual budget released by the White House on Monday once again proposed slashing billions of dollars in federal spending on environmental protection and renewable energy research. The budget is considered an agenda-setting document for the Trump administration, and President Trump is apparently the fossil fuel industry’s best friend.

      “And the oil and gas industry, I want to promise you, has no greater friend than President Donald Trump,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a Friday address to the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, an industry and lobbying group that has grown powerful with the shale fracking boom.

      With an audience of fossil fuel industry insiders gathered in Columbus, Ohio, Pence listed off clean air and water protections the Trump administration has rolled back as the U.S. becomes the largest producer of oil and gas on the planet. Pence claimed that New York’s decision to ban fracking hurt the state’s economy, repeating a recent industry claim that was quickly debunked by analysts. He only alluded to climate change once, while boasting about Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

      Meanwhile, in Iowa, presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders was sending a much different message, telling a crowd of supporters at a campaign rally on Friday that a “political revolution” would transform the country and take energy production in an entirely different direction. This movement would tell Trump and his friends in the fossil fuel industry that climate change is not a “hoax,” but an “existential threat” to the nation and the planet.

  • Finance

    • USA Continues Economic Sabotage of Eritrea

      On February 28, 2019 the last financial wire transactions between the small socialist country of Eritrea and all the western countries were stopped with no further wire transfers in USD$ or Euros to or from Eritrea being allowed .

      Unjust and illegal UN sanctions against Eritrea were lifted recently but the damage being done continues. During the 9 year-long UN sanctions period the US shut down all Eritrean government bank accounts and cut off all access to USD$ international transfers. The USA and its European lackeys even tried to prevent Eritreans in the diaspora from paying their national 2% income tax (something all US citizens outside the country must do), critical to the creation and survival of the country.

      After being kicked out of the dollar market Eritrea’s next turn was to the EU to no avail. The EU would not allow Eritrea access to international euro transfers so Eritrea was forced to fall back on her only international friend, Russia, as a conduit for international banking transactions in euros.

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says democracy ‘has a Facebook problem’

      Calls for competition regulation are coming from both sides of the aisle. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has also made it his mission to question the power of Big Tech. Congressional committees with antitrust jurisdiction have begun to hold hearings to discuss changes that could be made to the current interpretation of antitrust laws, and it’s clear that the debate won’t end anytime soon.

    • Silicon Valley’s Worst Nightmare Is Ready for Her Next Act

      At SXSW, she was preaching to the converted. “Can we get a show of hands if you believe that these tech giants have become too powerful and need regulation?” CNN Digital editor-in-chief Meredith Artley asked an audience waiting to hear Vestager speak in a packed hotel ballroom. Almost every hand went up. Now, she has to get the EU’s voters to be true believers, too.

    • ‘There Is No Meritocracy’: College Admissions Scandal Exposes Systemic Rot, Progressives Say

      The scope of the scandal, and the fact that it’s snared well known figures, made it front page news. But for a number of politicians, journalists, and commentators, the scheme exposed a deeper, uglier truth about the lack of meritocracy in America and how power works.

      “I hope it’s a wake-up call for people who have bought into the system that people become wealthy because they have worked hard,” Ivory Toldson, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University, told Democracy Now! in an interview Wednesday. “It’s a deception that’s pervasive in our society.”

    • Margaret Thatcher’s Love of Quack Remedies

      As a leftie I’m biased of course, but I always thought the old witch Margaret Thatcher was more or less off her trolley (as we Brits say) — she had that mad glint in her eyes, and the recent release of a batch of Thatcher’s private papers, made public after the 30-year embargo was lifted, serves somewhat to confirm this impression.

      Some of the papers in this set of releases show Thatcher to have been a sucker for what quacks were quick to offer her.

      Thatcher’s biggest supplier of quack remedies was Dame Barbara Cartland (1901-2000), the author of 723 novels (mostly trashy bodice-rippers) that sold over 750 million copies and were translated into 38 languages. Cartland, incidentally, was Princess Diana’s step-grandmother, and it is reported that Cartland’s novels were the only books read by the untutored Diana.

      Thatcher, known to be a workaholic, received “nutrimental capsules” from the ever-solicitous Dame Barbara “in case you ever feel tired”.

      Some of these capsules were made from “crushed sheep’s brain plus heart”.

      Did it ever occur to the good dame that some may view capsules made from the crushed brains and hearts of donkeys to possess as much “nutrimental” value as her sheep-derived capsules?

    • It’s Not Socialism; It’s What the People Want

      “Socialism,” snarled Donald Trump at a recent pep rally of far-right Republicans. And the obedient crowd of faithful Trumpistas snarled back in unison: “So-shull-izz-ummm!”

      And there you have the entire intellectual content of the GOP’s 2020 re-election strategy under Generalissimo Trump — slap Democrats silly with a scurrilous campaign branding them as Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin reincarnate. It’s not just Trump hissing out the socialist label in a frantic McCarthyesque attempt to make it stick by mindless repetition, but also Mike Pence, cabinet officials, Republican lawmakers, right-wing pundits and, of course, the extremist choreographers of Fox News.

      Their incessant babbling has already turned clownish, with many babblers bumbling over their own ignorance and making ridiculous attempts to overplay their weak hands. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, for example, compared Democrats who support ideas such as “Medicare for All” to Mussolini. Apparently, Cornyn is unaware that the brutish Italian dictator was no socialist, but a fascist! Mussolini’s ideology of ultranationalism, promotion of masculine authoritarianism, domination of society by big business and the wealthy and suppression of democratic rights is the opposite of the Democratic agenda. Indeed, it describes the policies of — guess who — Trump and his acolytes, including Cornyn!

    • A new Duma law bans hostels in residential spaces. Is this the end for affordable tourism in Russia?

      On March 6, Russia’s State Duma approved a new law that consists primarily of a single sentence: “A residential space in a building with multiple apartments may not be used to provide hotel services.” As of March 13, the Federal Council had requested that the final draft of the law be modified to go into effect on January 1, 2020 rather than taking effect immediately. However, the Council’s members indicated support for the law, and there is no doubt that it will sooner or later become active.

    • As Bankers Back Away, For-Profit Prison Companies Step Up Political Spending

      The U.S. for-profit prison industry, already facing organized opposition from human rights and justice reform advocates, got some bad news recently from its bankers.

      JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank measured by assets, last week announced its intention to stop financing private operators of prisons and immigrant detention centers after an evaluation of costs and benefits. The move follows banking giant Wells Fargo’s recent decision to scale back its involvement with the private prison industry as part of its risk management efforts. The decisions are a blow to an industry with a business model that relies on debt financing in the form of credit, loans, and bonds for day-to-day operations as well as for buying smaller companies.

      The banks’ announcements come amid a years-long campaign by advocacy groups that targeted the industry’s bankers. For example, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo were among the six Wall Street firms identified in a 2016 report by California-based privatization watchdog In the Public Interest (ITPI) as financing the debt of the two biggest U.S. for-profit prison companies: Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), which at the time had total debt of about $1.5 billion, and The GEO Group of Boca Raton, Florida, with debt of about $1.9 billion.

    • Watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Grill the CEO of Wells Fargo

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Ocasio (D-NY) proved once again her verbal interrogation skills on Tuesday as she grilled Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan over the financial giant’s dubious investments and won applause for holding his feet to the fire.

      The freshman congresswoman questioned bank CEO Timothy Sloan about two issues for which corporations are rarely directly held accountable—the bank’s financing of human rights abuses as well as environmental disasters.

      On the issue of Wells Fargo’s relationship with the private prison industry and the Trump administration’s child detention policy, Ocasio-Cortez asked sharply: “Mr. Sloan, why was the bank involved in the caging of children?”

    • Cheating, Bribes & Lies: DOJ Charges Dozens of Rich Parents & Coaches in College Admission Scandal

      Operation Varsity Blues. That’s the name of a sweeping federal probe into what the Justice Department calls the biggest college admissions scam the agency has ever uncovered. On Tuesday, 50 people, including 13 college coaches, were arrested for taking part in a scheme where wealthy parents paid exorbitant bribes to secure spots for their unqualified children in elite schools, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, UCLA, USC and Wake Forest. Prosecutors have charged 33 parents, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin; Loughlin’s husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli; and Bill McGlashan, a founder of TPG Capital, one of the largest private equity investment firms in the world. We speak with Ivory Toldson, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and president of Quality Education for Minorities. His new book is titled “No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear About Black People.”

    • Will New Mexico’s Historic Labor Win Spark Change in Other States?

      The New Mexico legislature just dealt a huge blow to the racist, sexist exclusion of domestic and home care workers from basic workplace rights, one that advocates hope will spark change throughout the country. With a 52 to 14 vote, lawmakers in the state House passed a bill on Tuesday evening providing these workers with basic protections like minimum wage and overtime pay in state law for the first time. With prior passage in the Senate, it now heads to the governor’s desk.

      In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a rule change that brought home care workers under the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), ending a longstanding “companionship exemption” that had excluded them from basic workplace rights like making a minimum wage or being owed overtime pay for extra hours. It followed a change in 1974 that expanded the FLSA to cover domestic workers.

      But according to advocates, 17 states still don’t fully include home care and domestic workers in their labor laws. New Mexico has been one of those holdouts, whose state law explicitly excludes domestic workers from the basics of a minimum wage and other job protections offered to nearly all other workers. That means state law doesn’t require that they be paid the minimum wage or overtime for extra hours, nor protect them from retaliation or discrimination.

      While federal law may offer those protections, “the real issue is enforcement,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney of workers’ rights at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. Home care and domestic workers in New Mexico could make a complaint to the Department of Labor if their rights are denied, but those complaints too often go uninvestigated and unenforced. “If they were covered under state law, they would have a state agency that enforces state workers’ rights,” Welch explained. The state agency “has a duty under state law to investigate state wage claims … and to recover wages that are owed.”

      In one of the listening sessions held to make the case for legislative change, a home care supervisor named Alfreda recalled the stories of fellow caregivers who live in rural parts of the state who aren’t reimbursed for their gas mileage driving to and from clients’ homes. The FLSA doesn’t require that employees be reimbursed for business expenses, but companies can violate the FLSA if failure to do so makes their earnings dip below the minimum wage. Because their employers don’t abide by this rule, though, some home caregivers have to drive up to 50 miles just to serve disabled veterans or elderly people, paying out of pocket for gas. Because they’re making only about $9.50 an hour, it’s often not financially worth it for them to do that kind of work.

      Other workers said they had been misclassified as independent contractors, which meant they had to pay their own employment taxes, further lowering their meager incomes and depriving them of other basic rights. Others still simply aren’t paid for all of the hours they work. Once the law goes into effect, “they’ll have that money and they’ll have higher incomes,” Welch pointed out.

      Currently, average pay for the 61,000 people in the state employed in this work is just $9.51 an hour. More than half earn so little that they fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and about half qualify for public assistance. Yet it’s the fastest-growing occupation in the state, and one that will become even more critical as the population ages. The state is projected to rank fourth in the country for the share of its population age 65 and over by 2030, and the need for care workers is projected to grow by 40 percent by 2024.

      Without stronger protections, though, people are fleeing the industry. Workers have told stories of people leaving care work to work at McDonald’s or other fast food jobs because it’s less demanding and they can expect a stable wage. The hope is that the new law will reduce turnover and even attract people to a high-demand job.

      The legislation’s origins trace back to the state senate voting in 2017 to create a task force on the possibility of changing state law to mirror federal law for home care and domestic workers. That task force became a two-year effort that produced two different reports.

      Seventeen states still don’t fully include home care and domestic workers in their labor laws.

    • EU Official Says ‘No-Deal’ Vote Won’t Halt Brexit

      The European Commission is warning Britain’s Parliament that voting against Brexit happening without a withdrawal deal in place isn’t enough and lawmakers must approve the deal, too.

      An official from the EU’s executive branch noted Wednesday that the bloc already reached a divorce deal with Prime Minister Theresa May and the House of Commons rejected it – twice.

      The official asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the unresolved situation.

      Parliament voted Wednesday night to reject leaving the EU as scheduled on March 29 if it hasn’t approved an agreement.

    • Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism

      Anytime a politician proposes a wildly popular idea that helps ordinary people, a few grumpy conservatives will call them “socialists.” Propose to reduce college debt, help sick families, or ensure the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes — suddenly you’re a walking red nightmare.

      Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart is so alarmed he’s convened an “Anti-Socialism Caucus” to ward off “the primitive appeal of socialism” that will “infect our institutions.” Democrats’ talk of restoring higher income tax rates on the wealthiest or helping families with childcare was enough to trigger Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin to quip, “We’re not going back to socialism.”

      These same politicians consistently vote for tax cuts for the rich and to gut taxes and regulations on corporations so they can exercise their full freedom and liberty — to mistreat workers, pollute the environment, and rip off their customers.

      The “shrink government” fear-mongers want you to believe there are only two flavors of economic ice cream. Choose strawberry and you get liberty-choking gulag communism. From this vantage, any proposal to rein in the unchecked power of global corporations and the rule-rigging rich is creeping socialism.

      Choice number two, blueberry, is plutocracy, a society where the super-rich lord over the rest of us. It’s an economically polarized dystopia with stagnant wages and a declining standard of living for the majority.

      Conservative demagogues aim to scare you into embracing their pro-plutocrat agenda as the only tolerable choice.

      The good news is there many flavors to choose from. A number of presidential candidates have proposed or endorsed policies such as low cost or free college, a higher minimum wage, taxing the super-rich, and investing in infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • “Please Step Away from the Socialism”: The Red Scare Dems at MSNBC

      One of the many amusing things one hears on the American right is the charge that MSNBC is a “far” and radical “leftist” network.

      Right, and the North American Meat Institute is a vegan advocacy group.

      I’ve watched more of MSNBC than any actual leftist should in recent months. If there’s anything good to result from this bad habit it is that I am thoroughly inoculated against the notion that the network is anywhere close to my side of things.

      One day last week while making dinner, I had MSNBC on in the background. The network’s egomaniacal Ted Baxter-like anchor Chris Matthews had just finished discussing the late breaking news that Donald Trump is a liar. After a long break for drug commercials and some reflections on Ivanka Trump’s security clearance, the Kennedy family super-fan Matthews (who regularly uses his cable news perch to hawk his silly books on the unmatched eminence of the Kennedys) turned to the greatness of capitalism, or “the market.”

    • Blackface and the American Idea of Race

      Periodically the American punditocracy convenes on cable TV for a “conversation about race.” But, whether sparked by a celebrity chef’s use of a racial slur, or a Black president’s comment about the shooting of a Black teen, or a white president’s remarks about “fine people on both sides” of a racist march, the conversations about race seem to fade out of the national consciousness as quickly as spring showers, with the phrase “both sides” lingering after them like a bit of precipitation on a pundit’s lip.

      Still, dead conversations about race return, first as tragi-comedy, then as farce.

      The latest case in point is the national blackface conversation that erupted in February, after Virginia Democratic governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page (complete with a photograph of someone in blackface next to someone in Klan garb), was publicized.

      There followed the triple tragi-comedy of Northam’s refusal to resign, of Justin Fairfax, his Democratic lieutenant governor, in turn refusing to step down after two women separately accused him of sexual assault, and, finally, of Mark Herring, the Democratic attorney general and the next in line for the governorship, preemptively announcing that he himself had worn blackface in his youth. All of this and even some of the conversation it sparked would fit in a remake of the old Ingrid Bergman movie where someone asks, apropos of an old crime, “Who remembers what happened or did not happen? Who remembers the truth?”

      Who remembers indeed? Amnesia may be the reason why tragi-comedies do not last in real life but tip one way or the other, into full-on farce or full-on tragedy: into Trump riding into the White House promising to fix an illusory border crisis with money from Mexico, or into refugee children suffering and in a few cases dying in the name of that same crisis.


      Both the pseudoscience and the thirst for blackface entertainment were injected into American life during the period when slavery stood in need of defense and celebration.

      One of those who led the conversation on race in those days was a New York actor named Thomas D. Rice. He popularized blackface in the 1830s by creating Jim Crow, a character whose behavior, according to one Louisiana editorialist, proved that emancipation of the slaves should not be considered for even a moment. After Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” unsurprisingly became the nickname for the system that enshrined Black inferiority in the southern law.

      If Rice was the Mr. Hyde of American race relations, the Dr. Jekyll was Josiah Nott, an esteemed slave-owning physician who became a passionate racial anthropologist. Together with an “American school” of naturalists, Nott helped spread racist ideas that continue to plague the national unconscious to this day.

    • Brexit and Bad Faith

      My long article on the Chagos Islands sat unfinished yesterday, despite my passion for the subject, as I was horribly fascinated by the Gothic twists and turns of the Brexit debates in the House of Commons. I seldom write on the subject, but some observations seem now called for.

      The Westminster system of handling business is designed purely to handle binary questions disputed between two major parties. Where those parties are both themselves hopelessly riven by internal conflict, and the issues not simply reduced to a manageable number of binary choices, Erskine May just cannot cope.

      Parliament thus ended up yesterday with a vote in which the majority of MPs who voted against May’s Withdrawal Agreement view its Irish Backstop provision as almost the only decent thing in it – an opinion with which I tend to concur. They however were egging on the antediluvian DUP/ERG faction to join them, on the basis of an argument that the Irish Backstop is terrible and could be permanent, neither of which anyone sensible really believes.

      It says something about the insanity of UK politics that the debate quite seriously hinged around discussions of what happens if the EU acts in bad faith and used the “backstop” deliberately to trap the UK permanently in the Customs Union. The notion that the EU is acting in “bad faith” is frankly ludicrous. No trading partner has ever accused the EU, which has the most transparent negotiating process on trade deals of any country or trading bloc, of acting in bad faith. In its own interest, yes. In bad faith – ie lying and tricking – no.

      The notion that the EU is like SPECTRE, and its leaders sit round a table headed by Blofeld Junker conjuring up evil plots to trap the UK in a customs union, is stark raving mad. It is an absolutely crazed conspiracy theory. Yet pro-EU MPs were pretending to share this conspiracy theory in order to encourage the ERG/DUP nutters to vote down May’s deal. That is madness.

    • On the ‘Name Recognition’ Shibboleth in the Democratic Primary Data Discussion

      Now that the 2016 Democratic Primary cycle is (mostly) over — will it ever be entirely? — it has become fashionable once again to forward name recognition as a reasonably large factor in what distinguishes one or more candidates from the others in early polling of the field at large and amongst specific demographic sub-groupings. As The Intercept’s Ryan Grim has noted in an article on Bernie Sanders having double the support among African American likely Democratic Primary voters as Kamala Harris, the name recognition argument was “casually dismissed when made by Sanders supporters” in 2016.

      “Casually” puts it somewhat mildly. Rudely and perfunctorily would do better. Meanwhile, the same crowd is enthusiastically chalking up almost all of Joe Biden and Sanders’ poll strength over their preferred candidates to the name recognition shibboleth.

      Put most simply, the ‘name recognition’ argument suggests that even large gaps in polling support might best be explained by how well candidates are known by voters at this stage in the race rather than by the likelihood that those differences may hold when voting begins a year or so from now.

    • 8 Ways to Fix America’s Messed-Up Presidential Elections

      In 2016 there were 17 major candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, so many they had to have two sets of debates—and the guy who won was the first of all. Seven pundit-viable candidates have declared for 2020 on the Democratic side, more probably on the way, yet many Democrats say they’re not excited by any of them.

      There must be a better way.

      Presidential campaigns could be improved—streamlined, made more relevant to more voters and their worries, and likelier to result in better outcomes—and it wouldn’t require revolutionary change, just common-sense reforms.

      In a representative democracy the goal ought not to be engagement for its own sake. You want voters to vote because they’re vested in the outcome; you want candidates who, after they’re elected, work hard to fix the biggest problems. The ideal politician is responsive and accountable to the citizenry. Otherwise people look at politics and think “what a load of crap, it makes no difference to me.”

      First, take a step back: get rid of jungle primaries and open primaries. Both of these newfangled experiments were marketed as ways to increase voter turnout and encourage moderation. They don’t.

      In a jungle or open-participation primary like in California the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to a second final round. Trouble is, both might be from the same party, disenfranchising the other party’s voters during the general election. If one party’s candidates split the vote, the minority party can win. Either scenario depresses voter interest and participation. In an open primary voters can cross party lines to vote in the other party’s primary. Studies show that open primaries do not result in victories by more moderate candidates (assuming that’s desirable); Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign shows what happens when a party whose electorate has moved way left is asked to turn out for a centrist.

    • Is Mike Pence an Honorable Man? Without Any Hesitation, Elizabeth Warren Answers: ‘No’

      Asked Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” if she believes U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is “an honorable man,” Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts shot back without hesitation her one-word answer: “No.”

      Asked by show host Mika Brzezinski if she wanted to expand, Warren said: “Sure. Anyone who engages in the kind of homophobia and attacks on people who are different from himself is not an honorable person. That’s not what honorable people do.”

    • Russia Mocks U.S. Collusion Probe Ahead of Mueller Report

      U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller has yet to release his report about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but the Kremlin has been rehearsing its response for months.

      The narrative, shared by President Vladimir Putin, his top lieutenants and state television, is strikingly similar to U.S. President Donald Trump’s description of the investigation as a “witch hunt:” They say the whole process is about the Democrats’ stubborn refusal to admit that they lost the election.

      “They don’t want to acknowledge his victory and do everything to delegitimize the president,” Putin said at his annual news conference in December.

      Mueller has been looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation.

    • Russia’s Federation Council approves law penalizing fake news and disrespect toward the government

      The Federation Council of the Russian Federation gave its approval to two new bills despite opposition from another federal agency. The bills would penalize Internet users and online media for publishing “unreliable” information of social significance or spreading “obscene” criticisms of the Russian government, its symbols, or some of its members.

    • Advertisers Urged to #DropFox by Outraged Activists

      A coalition of activist groups is protesting in front of Fox News Headquarters in New York City today to bring attention to the network’s recent controversies—as the cable channel tries to woo companies in the wake of a number of high profile advertising defections.

      “The message to companies and their media buyers is clear,” said Angelo Carusone, the president of watchdog group Media Matters for America, one of the organizers of the action, in a statement. “No matter what time of day you advertise on Fox News, you support the network’s extremism and bigotry.”

    • “Speaking Truth to Power” Is No Substitute for Taking Power

      Progressives often applaud the idea of “speaking truth to power.” But this concept is hazardous. If taken literally and deployed as a single-minded strategy, it can divert attention from the crucial need to take power away from those who abuse it. Political movements don’t get very far if they depend on appealing to the moral scruples of the powerful.

      While noting that “power without love is reckless and abusive,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out that “love without power is sentimental and anemic.” All too often, progressive activists don’t realize their own potential power when they rely on ethical arguments to persuade authorities. Appealing to the hearts of people who run a heartless system is rarely effective.

      Humane principles are low priorities in the profit-driven scheme of things, as the devastating impacts of economic inequality and militarism attest. By and large, rapacious power already knows what it’s doing — from Wall Street and the boardrooms of mega-corporations to the Pentagon and the top echelons of the “national security” state.

      Speaking truth to power is fine, but it’s far more important — and potentially transformational — to focus on public education efforts, agitation and organizing that speaks truth about power while challenging it. Only by mobilizing to take power can we realistically hope to overcome and dismantle the dominant power structures.

    • While Warren Fights Facebook, O’Rourke Embraces It

      Following Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s announcement that she would seek to break up Facebook, Amazon and Google if elected president, Facebook removed an advertisement run by Warren’s page that was critical of big tech. The ad was restored Tuesday, but it essentially supported her argument and put further pressure on potential Democratic hopefuls to revisit their relationships with Silicon Valley.

      “Thanks for restoring my posts,” Warren tweeted in regard to the story, “But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.” A spokesperson for Facebook said the ad was removed because it violated policy by using Facebook’s logo.

    • If It Really Wants To Restore Debate, Facebook Should Update Its Ad Policy

      Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new “privacy-focused” direction for the company that, while sounding great in theory, also set off several alarm bells—including concerns about competition as the company moves to make its messaging properties indistinguishable from one another. As usual for Zuckerberg, it’s all frying pans and fires: just a few days later, it seemed the company had accidentally-on-purpose picked a fight with one leading competition critic — Senator and Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren — by deleting Facebook ads, placed by her campaign, that advocated breaking up the platform.

      Facebook has since restored the ads, and clarified that they were removed solely because they violated policies against the use of the company’s trademarks in advertising on the platform. The company’s advertising platform policy prohibits advertisers from “represent[ing] the Facebook brand in a way that makes it the most distinctive or prominent feature” of the ad, and use of the logo itself is forbidden.

      This policy goes well beyond what the law requires. Trademarks are intended to protect consumers by helping ensure that a person can identify a product’s source. If you prefer Coke over Pepsi, a logo helps you know which to buy. But advertisers, whether commercial or political, can normally use a trademark as part of speech criticizing conduct or to comment upon corporations and products, as long as the use doesn’t suggest endorsement. If an advertiser, especially a political campaign, is using Facebook’s trademark to identify the company in a critical comment, it’s unlikely people would think Facebook endorsed it.

      There have always been two groups of people on the platform: those with the power to contest censorship and those without.

    • Manafort Now Faces 7 Years in Prison, Fresh New York Charges

      Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison Wednesday after a federal judge rejected his appeal for no additional time and rebuked him for his crimes and years of lies.

      Within minutes of the sentencing, prosecutors in New York brought state charges against Manafort — a move that appeared at least partly designed to guard against the possibility that President Donald Trump could pardon him. The president can pardon federal crimes, but not state offenses.

      U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to nearly three-and-a-half years in prison on charges that he misled the U.S. government about his foreign lobbying work and encouraged witnesses to lie on his behalf. That punishment is on top of a roughly four-year sentence he received last week in a separate case in Virginia. He is expected to get credit for the nine months of jail time he’s done already.

    • Team Heckler: Liars Not Lawyers

      A big bad day for the especially egregious members of Grifters Inc. as Paul Manafort was hit with 16 shiny new charges of fraud and slime brought by New York prosecutors just moments after his sentencing in federal court. The indictment, unveiled by Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, charges Manafort with 16 counts related to mortgage fraud, conspiracy and much falsifying of business records involving millions in fraudulent loans, including three conspiracy counts incriminating his daughter (“Individual 3″) and former son-in-law (“Individual 2″), terms starting to sound pretty familiar these days. “No one is beyond the law in New York,” intoned Vance on the charges, which pose potential prison terms – and conditions – far harsher than the slap-on-the-wrist-white-boy variety Manafort now faces, and most importantly which, as state charges, are pardon-proof.

      The New York charges came minutes after DC Judge Amy Berman Jackson had dropped her gavel on Manafort’s federal crimes, giving him 43 more months of prison time in addition to the low-ball 47 months he’d earlier gotten thanks to his fictional “blameless life.” Wednesday’s sentence brings his total time behind bars to a still-modest 7½ years. Emerging to address the waiting crowd, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing crowed that “Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case.” As predictably as mud season, Downing’s claim was duly, eagerly parroted by the pathological-liar-in- chief – current status: 4,583 lies, almost six a day – who babbled to reporters that the day’s events proved “no collusion. There was no collusion…it was all a big hoax…Today, again, ‘no collusion.’”

    • Is AIPAC in Violation of Federal Election Law?

      What newcomer to the US House of Representatives, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Mn) may not have fully realized is that her critique of Israel influence on American politics would open a door that has previously been hermetically sealed as the third rail of American politics.

      With its influence carefully concealed behind decades of deceptions, lies and ruthless intimidation and representing a mere 2.1% of the population spread across nine states, AIPAC and its supporters are like any schoolyard bully when confronted with a higher ethical authority. They throw down the race card, an archaic accusation of anti-semitism intended to play on a misguided empathy that is no longer effective when confronted with words that speak truth to power.

      Rep. Omar first came to our attention during a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting with an elegant takedown of convicted felon and neo-con purveyor of brutal atrocities Elliot Abrams who sorely deserved to be humiliated. Abrams is currently President Trump’s point man on plotting future military action in Venezuela.

    • Virginia’s Approach to Government Accountability

      Despite the top three elected Virginia State Democrats generating national headlines for being accused of past racist or even criminal behavior, a movement to reform their democratic process continues to grow. These efforts can use three tools for making structural changes in government: the initiative process, court rulings and electing new public officials.

      Virginia does not have the first option. Citizens can only vote on a specific institutional change when their General Assembly (their Senate and House chambers) brings a state constitutional amendment to a vote of the people. Virginia, like a number of other states, has a constitution that is very prescriptive. Consequently, what may be handled as a legislative solution becomes a constitutional amendment, which is a three-step process: it must be passed by two sessions of the General Assembly, followed by a vote of the populace. Despite an arduous journey, constitutional amendments are voted on regularly, most of which are non-controversial.

      Their General Assembly completed its annual session in February. On the last day they overwhelmingly approved a a ground-breaking amendment to establish a bi-partisan Redistricting Commission to draw legislative and congressional maps. Next year’s General Assembly must vote on it again before it is placed on the ballot as a referendum during the November 2020 election.

    • A Reckoning is Coming for Jack Evans, But What About the Washington Post?

      D.C.’s longest-serving councilman is in trouble. With the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a federal grand jury investigating his suspect dealings, Jack Evans’ days as a top DC powerbroker are over. That conclusion seems inescapable now that Evans’ strongest ally, the Washington Post, is no longer shielding him.

      For years the Post willfully ignored Evans’ repeated crossing of bright ethical lines. As chairman of D.C.’s powerful finance and revenue committee, a position he has held for two decades but may soon lose, Evans has played a central role in crafting deals involving several billion taxpayer dollars, including deals in which he had undisclosed conflicts of interest.

      Despite $140,000 salaries, among the nation’s highest for city councils, D.C. councilmembers are allowed to earn outside income. Evans has earned a lot of it over the years, primarily at powerhouse lobby firms. These side hustles haven’t always been isolated from his elected position. His dual hats – as legislator and hired hand – have led to conflicts of interest which are reminiscent of misconduct that led to jail time for others.

      Yet over the years Evans had little to fear, as the Post averted the gaze of readers and prosecutors alike. D.C.’s paper of record even appeared to sanction Evans’ conduct, while it pursued black officials over less serious allegations.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Circulation Research Fires Editor over Homophobic Email
    • US pulls award to Yle journalist over Trump critique

      However the outlet spoke with US officials who suggested a different narrative, according to which Aro was effectively disinvited because of her sharp criticism of US President Donald Trump on Twitter.

    • U.S. Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump

      Jessikka Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist, has faced down death threats and harassment over her work exposing Russia’s propaganda machine long before the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. In January, the U.S. State Department took notice, telling Aro she would be honored with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award, to be presented in Washington by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

      Weeks later, the State Department rescinded the award offer. A State Department spokesperson said it was due to a “regrettable error,” but Aro and U.S. officials familiar with the internal deliberations tell a different story. They say the department revoked her award after U.S. officials went through Aro’s social media posts and found she had also frequently criticized President Donald Trump.

    • Russia’s FSB sues independent newspaper for reporting torture allegations, demands retraction

      The Federal Security Service (FSB) has filed a defamation lawsuit against the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and correspondent Ivan Zhilin, demanding the retraction of two articles published in January about the alleged torture of a man detained in Magnitogorsk after an explosion killed 39 people last December.

      The lawsuit claims that Novaya Gazeta’s reporting “is untrue” and “damages the FSB’s professional reputation.” In January, following the apartment building blast, the authorities detained a Kyrgyz citizen named Khudnidin Zainabidinov. His wife and multiple human rights advocates told Zhilin that he was tortured in FSB custody. A few days after Novaya Gazeta’s first report, however, Chelyabinsk state attorney Vitaly Lopin claimed that Zainabidinov and his wife had recanted these allegations.

    • NYTimes Reporter Gets Bogus Defamation Lawsuit Dismissed As Judge Philosophizes About SLAPP Suits

      Another day, another SLAPP suit. Back in 2015, NY Times reporter Eric Lipton wrote an interesting article detailing the close ties of the food industry with various academics in ways that some might find questionable. Most of the discussion focused on companies on both sides of the debate around whether or not there should be mandated labels on genetically modified foods (so called GMOs). And while it was one side of the debate that encouraged Lipton to look into this, he used Freedom of Information laws to get emails from a bunch of academic scientists working at state universities. This practice is a bit more controversial than other types of Freedom of Information laws — which are normally used to access government records from those in actual government agencies. However, in the more recent past, FOIA laws have been used to access academic emails, noting (correctly) that since state universities are technically government entities, those emails are considered public records.

    • New Florida Bill Seeks To Bury Recordings Of Mass Shootings

      Senator Tom Lee’s bill is a gift to the government at large, even if law enforcement agencies and schools will be the most direct recipients of this largesse. If this “privacy protection” had been in place a few years ago, the public would have had no idea how badly the Broward County Sheriff’s Department botched its response to the school shooting. Not only would that have kept the BCSD relatively free of criticism, it would have shielded its oversight — state legislators — from being asked what they were doing to prevent school shootings and/or ensure better response from those expected to serve and protect the public.

      Supporters of bills like these claim it’s all about protecting the privacy of crime victims and their families. But as the excellent Sun Sentinel op-ed points out, most requests to block release of recordings originates with governments and businesses rather than the victims and their loved ones. These requests have prevented the public from accessing key details in everything from Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona crash to an inmate’s death at the hands of jailers.

    • Why Isn’t Tucker Carlson’s Hate Speech a Deal-Breaker?

      The recently revealed audio recordings of Fox News host Tucker Carlson spewing racist and misogynist rhetoric on a radio show years ago offers new evidence of the media outlet’s tilt toward hate. In clips originating from 2006 to 2011 available here and here, obtained by the watchdog group Media Matters for America, Carlson is heard ranting against women, Iraqis, blacks, immigrants and others, using the same language heard from white supremacists, male chauvinists, homophobes and old-fashioned racists.

      For example, during a discussion of the U.S. war in Iraq, Carlson is heard saying, “Iraq is a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys.” When asked how the war could be salvaged, his answer was, “It’s beyond our control. I mean if, somehow, the Iraqis decided to behave like human beings or something.” He also envisioned a president who would say, “It’s these lunatic Muslims who are behaving like animals, and I’m going to kill as many of them as I can if you elect me.” Those are only three instances of many, each one as appalling as the next.

      So far, the Fox News host has refused to apologize. Instead he has characterized his words on Twitter as “naughty” and dug in his heels. Fox News has refused to take action, simply re-releasing a statement from several months ago, saying, “We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts.” The White House has ignored the recordings altogether. Staying with the examples cited above, if one were to replace the words “Iraqis” and “Muslims” with “Israelis” and “Jews,” the double standard becomes imminently clear.

      As a nation, we rightfully no longer tolerate anti-Semitism. Even Trump, the Republicans and Fox News executives would have immediately distanced themselves from a person spewing hatred against Jews. But when it comes to Muslims in particular, why is there is no howl of protest at the use of dehumanizing language by a public figure? Carlson’s corresponding misogyny, anti-black racism and homophobia are also apparently not deal-breakers for his employers.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Russia ‘sneakily’ blocks ProtonMail’s encrypted email service

      “ProtonMail is not blocked in the normal way, it’s actually a bit more subtle,” Yen explained. “They are blocking access to ProtonMail mail servers. So Mail.ru — and most other Russian mail servers — for example, is no longer able to deliver email to ProtonMail, but a Russian user has no problem getting to their inbox.”

      The ProtonMail servers that got blocked were back-end mail delivery servers, which would explain the conundrum Yen highlighted.

    • FOIA Documents Detail DHS/CBP’s Rules-Free Rollout Of Biometric Scanning Program

      The push is on to implement biometric screening at major US airports. The DHS has been pushing this for awhile, telling concerned travelers all they need to do to opt out is not travel. The pilot programs don’t seem to have produced anything in the way of actionable results, but the administration’s insistence that the US is surrounded by terrorists has dropped a lead foot on the DHS’s gas pedal, resulting in an accelerated process that ignores both concerns about biometric scanning tech and the concerns of the traveling public that will be subjected to it.

    • Do People Want A Better Facebook, Or A Dead Facebook?

      The question in the title is one that I actually think is worth discussing, because seeing the reactions to both Mark Zuckerberg’s announced plans for greater privacy in Facebook’s messaging tools, and to Elizabeth Warren’s not very well thought out plan to break up Facebook, it seems quite clear that some people just want the company dead at any cost. Indeed, I’ve seen a lot of people pointing to this AP article, derisively, about how Facebook’s plans for more privacy are all a misleading game because the the company might profit from it.

      As if that’s a bad thing.

      For years, we kept getting told that the reason big companies like Facebook and Google didn’t treat user privacy very carefully was because there was profit in scooping up all our data, and that there were no profits in privacy. This was seen as a problem. Yet, now that Facebook is exploring ways to provide more privacy and snoop less, some are still complaining that it might profit from it? Shouldn’t we want to see business models that align with protecting user privacy? Shouldn’t we want companies to realize that protecting user privacy both can and should be profitable as well? Won’t that encourage companies to move away from data surveillance business models into ones that are more respectful to end users?

      That’s why I highlighted the positive concepts in Zuckerberg’s post. Because I think it’s good to encourage companies to go in the right direction.

    • Documents Reveal ICE Using Driver Location Data From Local Police for Deportations

      Records obtained in an ACLU lawsuit show how ICE is accessing billions of location data points from license plate scanners in over a dozen states.

      U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is using mass location surveillance to target immigrants. And local governments like Merced and Union City, California, are helping — feeding their residents’ personal information to ICE, even when it violates local privacy laws or sanctuary policies. Today, the ACLU is urging an immediate end to this information sharing.

      Records obtained by the ACLU of Northern California in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit detail ICE’s sweeping use of a vast automated license plate reader (ALPR) database run by a company called Vigilant Solutions. Over 9,000 ICE officers have gained access to the Vigilant system under a $6.1 million contract that the public first learned of last year. ICE has access to over 5 billion data points of location information collected by private businesses, like insurance companies and parking lots, and can gain access to an additional 1.5 billion records collected by law enforcement agencies.

      Over 80 local law enforcement agencies, from over a dozen states, have agreed to share license plate location information with ICE. Emails show local police handing driver information over to ICE informally, violating local law and ICE policies.

    • Google Is Using Wi-Fi To Track Your Precise Location: Oracle

      o say that Google knows more about you than you know about yourself would not be an exaggeration. In a fresh attack on Google, Oracle has submitted a 17-page attachment titled “Google’s Shadow Profile” to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s digital platform inquiry.

      Oracle has accused Google of building profiles of Australian users by logging their data. This profile consists of their “secret interests,” “intimate lifestyle details” and their office and home address.

    • Trump Administration Wants to Monitor Disability Recipients’ Social Media

      Currently, disability examiners do not typically look at recipients social media accounts. If a case is flagged for potential fraud, investigators can use social media to corroborate information from other sources in conjunction with state and local law enforcement.

    • On Disability and on Facebook? Uncle Sam Wants to Watch What You Post

      The Trump administration has been quietly working on a proposal to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to help identify people who claim Social Security disability benefits without actually being disabled. If, for example, a person claimed benefits because of a back injury but was shown playing golf in a photograph posted on Facebook, that could be used as evidence that the injury was not disabling.


      Moreover, people are more likely to post pictures of themselves when they are happy and healthy than when they are in a wheelchair or a hospital bed.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Teen Fiction and the Perils of Cancel Culture

      I have read Jackson’s book. Before I get to the actual contents, let’s get this out of the way: What happened to Jackson is frightening. Purity tests are the tools of fanatics, and the quest for purity ultimately becomes indistinguishable from the quest for power. In the Twitterverse, ideologues have far more power than moderates. They have more followers; their tweets get more traction (studies have shown that emotional tweets pretty much always have more traction); they set the terms of their neighborhood’s culture and tone.

    • Union Busting on Campus: Jackson Lewis and Higher Education Anti-Unionism

      From 2008 to 2018, few professors at the University of New Mexico—whether tenured, or tenure-track, or adjunct—received wage increases greater than the cost of living. In most of those years, wages remained stagnant, while out-of-pocket costs for health insurance and retirement contributions increased. As a result, some professors, particularly those faculty who teach on semester-to-semester or short-term contracts, make less today than they did ten years ago. Median salaries for UNM faculty, already low at all ranks and dramatically low in comparison to similar universities, continue to shrink.

      Last week, after years of on-campus organizing, UNM faculty—United Academics of the University of New Mexico—filed with the local labor board to form a faculty union. Nearly 1,000 faculty signed union authorization cards. If we win the election, the more than 1,700 faculty at UNM collectively bargain with UNM over wages and working conditions.

      As any educator working in higher education knows, faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. The worse that things have gotten for faculty at UNM, the worse they’ve gotten for students. A decade of steep cuts to the academic mission at UNM has created a crisis in UNM’s ability to hire and retain faculty, educate students, conduct research, and serve the state of New Mexico as the flagship institution of higher learning. These cuts have convinced many faculty that UNM leadership isn’t serious about its mission. Endless austerity has shrunk the university. Year after year, UNM balances its books on the backs of faculty, staff and students. According to UNM’s interim provost in a February 13 email to all faculty, declining state support and an even sharper decline in enrollments over the past five years have cratered UNM’s budget. Revenue at UNM’s main campus “is now about $24 million less than it was in 2009.”

    • In Depth Look at Women Incarcerated

      She advocates for children’s rights through her organization “Babies Behind Bars’ which earned her a spot in the Mandela Washington Fellowship initiated by President Barack Obama, a Community Leader Award from Elizabeth Arden, and recognition by Independent Newspapers as one of 100 Young Leaders. In addition, she is an Ubuntu Award recipient and a Paul Harris Fellowship Award winner from the Rotary of South Africa.

    • After Controversy, Heartland to Close Four Illinois Shelters for Immigrant Youth

      Eight months after its shelters for immigrant children came under public scrutiny over allegations of abuse and lax supervision, Heartland Human Care Services says it will close four shelters in suburban Chicago and add staff, training and other resources at its remaining five facilities.

      The decision, announced to employees in a memo Friday, comes as another agency, Maryville Academy, plans to open two additional shelters, including one as early as next month.

      Heartland officials told ProPublica Illinois they plan to move children out of its four shelters in Des Plaines between now and the end of May. Altogether, the Des Plaines shelters can house as many as 116 children and teens; the change will cut Heartland’s total capacity under state rules a little more than 20 percent, from 512 to 396.

      According to the memo, obtained by ProPublica Illinois, Heartland officials decided to shutter the Des Plaines facilities after an internal review and listening sessions with staff in the chaotic aftermath of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration crackdown. The practice separated more than 2,700 children from parents and sent them to shelters across the U.S., including 99 to Heartland shelters in Illinois.

    • Cops and Fascists: KKKolleagues?

      Cops survey a scene of conflict in California’s capital, a struggle between fascists and antifascists. Blood is on the ground, and webcam recordings show images of members of the Ku Klux Klan and related groups, not only armed with knives but actually showing some men stabbing downward at writhing bodies beneath. One side has knives. One side has signs. Guess which side received charges of violating the law? Guess which side had been surveilled by state and federal agents long before the events of the day? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t the Ku Klux Klan. According to published reports in The Guardian (London), police accounts concentrated on two major groups: Antifascists and members of Black Lives Matter.

      In June 2016, antifascists assembled at a neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento. As expected, this rally was the site of intense emotions. Violence erupted between the two sides, with at least 8 antifascists stabbed, beaten–or both. How did it happen that none of the neo-Nazis were charged with anything; while antifascists were charged with everything? The answer is Donovan Ayres, a California Highway patrolman who was ordered to investigate the melee. He wrote hundreds of pages of notes, advocating charges against the antifascists. As for the neo-Nazis, nothing.

      They have every right to protest, but what of those who oppose them? They, it seems, are simply troublemakers. Ayres did extensive research on the antifascists, including email, Facebook and even metadata. His research included Native Americans and Chicano antifascists. At the end of a hearing where Ayres testified, the DA was thanked by one courtroom observer for protecting white supremacists. One wonders, how does such a thing as this happen? How does something so outrageous occur? History provides an excellent answer, for police and fascists have ever been brothers beneath their respective uniforms.

    • Most Victims of Violent Crimes Don’t Call the Cops

      About 15 years ago, Darrita Davis was selling clothes out of her trunk in Dayton, Ohio. She had just gotten back from New York City, where she bought her inventory wholesale. She had designer belts and glasses, velour jogging suits, and pants and shirts covered with the logos of NBA teams, which were popular back then.

      Davis usually followed a rule to not sell at night, but she ran into a friend who pleaded with her, knowing she would sell out of the good stuff before he saw her next. After the sale, as she packed up, she saw someone approach out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t think twice about it because she recognized him from her son’s football league.

      “He walked straight up to me and said, ‘You have some fly ass shit,’” Davis said. “And he pulled out the gun. I didn’t see it, I just felt it in my back. I kind of immediately turned and looked at him and slammed the trunk down, and was like, ‘You would have to kill me tonight. This is how I’m supporting myself.’”

      The man backed off, claiming he was just messing with her. Davis didn’t believe him. She was also shaking with fear. But she didn’t call the police. It never occurred to her.

      “Nothing good comes out of calling the police,” she said. “Never, ever.”

    • Ending ‘Premeditated and Discriminatory’ Executions, Gov. Newsom Issues California Death Penalty Moratorium

      Anti-death penalty activists applauded California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s planned executive order announcing a moratorium on capital punishment in the state on Wednesday.

      The order will grant reprieve to 737 death row inmates, a quarter of all prisoners awaiting execution in the United States. California’s prison system has the largest death row population in the Western Hemisphere.

      Newsom, in his prepared remarks, called the death penalty “inconsistent with our bedrock values” and noted that 164 inmates—including five in California—have been released from death row over the past 45 years after being exonerated of their convictions.

      The governor is expected to outline the long history of discrimination within the criminal justice system, making mentally ill, black, brown, and poor convicts more likely to face the death penalty.

      “Our death penalty system has been—by any measure—a failure,” the remarks state. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”

    • Oregon Should Overhaul Handling of Insanity Defendants, Says Head of Psychiatry Security Review Board

      The state of Oregon needs to overhaul the way it handles people found guilty except for insanity and better track what happens to them once they are released from state jurisdiction, the head of the agency that supervises such defendants said.

      In an interview, Alison Bort, executive director of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board, acknowledged gaps in the system for treating and discharging people found criminally insane and said the state Legislature should consider appointing a state task force to weigh reforms.

      “I don’t think anyone disagrees we can do better,” Bort said.

      The review board has been under scrutiny for the past two years after a person it released was accused of killing two others within a month of being set free. In addition, a series of stories by ProPublica and the Malheur Enterprise documented that the state does not track those it releases.

      Bort’s agency is responsible for 575 people charged with crimes who subsequently were determined to be insane. Of those, 205 are committed to the Oregon State Hospital and 364 have been released with conditions into community settings. Six others are in prison or have absconded.

    • Trump Admin to World: Your Human Rights Record Doesn’t Matter So Long As We Get Ours

      President Donald Trump’s State Department was remarkably candid in its annual human rights report.

      “The policy of this administration is to engage with other governments, regardless of their record, if doing so will further U.S. interests,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo writes in the preface to the report. The document, formally called the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018, was released on Wednesday.

      The admission caught the eyes of Amnesty International USA, which called it “astonishing to see this memorialized in black and white in the official human rights report issued by the U.S. government, a report that has long been viewed by world leaders as a weighty credible assessment on the records of countries around the world.”

      “This statement signals to world leaders including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Egypt’s President Sisi that the U.S. doesn’t care about human rights and will forgive or forget even the most atrocious human rights abuses,” the organization said in a statement.

    • New Report Shows Trump’s ‘Tough on Crime’ Stance Doesn’t Extend to ‘Lawbreaking Corporations’

      President Donald Trump has long positioned himself as “tough on crime”—but, as a new Public Citizen report revealed Wednesday, that stance doesn’t extend to “lawbreaking corporations.”

      Over the first two years of Trump’s presidency, enforcement activity at the nation’s top three consumer protection agencies that resulted in fines of at least $5,000 plummeted 37 percent from the last two years under former President Barack Obama, according to Consumer Carnage (pdf), the watchdog group’s new report.

      “Trump, who once asserted that he was ‘not going to let Wall Street get away with murder,’ now is allowing industry after industry to get away with just about anything,” said Alan Zibel, the report’s lead author and research director for Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency Project.

      “Trump’s appointees’ apparent belief that enforcement of consumer protection laws should be a last resort,” Zibel noted, “represents a dramatic about-face from Trump’s claim of populism during his campaign.”

    • California Halts the Use of the Death Penalty

      Gov. Newsom’s moratorium on the use of the fatally flawed death penalty is the latest victory for the repeal movement.
      Gov. Gavin Newsom dealt a major blow to the nation’s already anemic death penalty on Wednesday when he announced a moratorium on the practice in California. With 737 death row prisoners, the state has by far the nation’s largest death row, dwarfing the next largest states, Florida with 353 and Texas with 232. The death penalty is a barbaric penalty that is riddled with error and bias, and other states should follow California’s lead in halting its use immediately.

      The impact of Gov. Newsom’s decision cannot be understated. By suspending the death penalty in California, Newsom reduced the number of death row prisoners in the United States under threat of execution by over 25 percent.

      The death penalty in California, and everywhere it is practiced in America, is inseparable from the taint of racial discrimination. In fact, racial bias does not come at one stage of this process — it permeates the entire process. Prosecutors discriminate against jurors of color in jury selection, and the death penalty is used overwhelmingly in favor of white victims rather than victims of color.

      The death penalty in California also suffers from an innocence problem. Five former death row prisoners have been exonerated in California, and there are almost certainly other innocent prisoners who remain on the row while their appeals languish under California’s broken system.

    • Bring Back Pell Grants for Prisoners

      When I was in working on my PhD in philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I paid for part of my education by teaching in prison. For me it was an incredibly rewarding experience. It was great working these students who had time to read and think, and wonder in the deep ways that philosophy encourages. On the first day of my first political philosophy class, as we sat down to read Plato’s Republic, I started by saying that the book was about the nature of justice. Within seconds we were off to a serious philosophical conversation with a student asking “What makes you think that justice exists?” So began a deeply engaging, philosophically rich, and intellectually challenging teaching experience.

      That program allowed inmates to receive a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Massachusetts. The degree did not say anything about prison on it. Administrators for the program claimed that there was a 2% recidivism rate for its graduates. The program was funded in large part by Pell Grants. Pell Grants began in 1965 and they continue to this day to be the core sources of money for college for millions of low-income students. I finished my undergraduate education at UC Berkeley as a self-funded older student, and it was Pell Grants that allowed me to do so.

      In spite of its incredible success, UMass’ prison education program was ended a few years after I left in 1990.

    • Alabama Prison Officials Won’t Say Why Prison Strike Leader Is In Solitary Confinement

      An Alabama prisoner, who has faced retaliation for organizing incarcerated workers for years, began a hunger strike on March 7 after he was transferred to another prison and thrown in solitary confinement in the middle of the night.

      As of March 13, Robert Earl Council (aka Kinetik Justice Amun) had refused food and liquids for one week. He said he will remain on hunger strike until the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) releases him back into general population and the “ADOC is held accountable.”

      “ADOC’s actions amount to a violation of our due process rights and the Eighth Amendment’s ‘Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause,’” he argued.

      On the afternoon of March 12, after days of phone calls to ADOC by supporters in Council’s defense, officials transferred him again to the infirmary at Kilby Correctional Facility.

      Council’s hunger strike started when a squad of officers from the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT) and local police SWAT team members entered his cell before dawn at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama on March 7. He was placed in zip ties and transferred to Holman Correctional Facility, where he was placed in solitary confinement.

    • Publicized Cruelty: Scott Morrison Visits Christmas Island

      His visit struck a sour note. The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was making an effort to show he cared: about those intangible things called borders, secure firm and shut to the unwanted human matter coming by sea. The distant Australian territory of Christmas Island was selected to assist in coping with arrivals from Manus and Nauru Island needing medical treatment. Having lost the vote in parliament on preventing the move, the Morrison government has does its best to ensure that a cruel element remains.

      During the visit, Morrison rationalised the re-opening as the fault of the opposition. “As Prime Minister, I closed the Christmas Island detention centre and got all the children off Nauru.” The Labor Party had “voted to weaken our borders and we have acted on official advice to reopen Christmas Island.” The facilities provided “a deterrent to people smugglers and to anyone who thinks they can game the system to get to Australia.” The mythology persists.

      There are parallels with atrocity and jail tourism (fancy seeing concentration camps?) in a man being filmed going through such facilities, though this time, they are intended for full use rather than being a site for instructive purposes or moral outrage. Should Australians ever wake up to the full implications of what their government does in their name, such camps might become appropriate measures of a gulag mentality that paralysed any sensible discourse on refugees for a generation.

      Being a man obsessed by the moving image (once and adman always an adman), Morrison ensured that cameras never left their focus; the prime minister was keen to push the credentials of the North West Point Detention Centre. He made a pit stop at a library. (Cue necessary movement of arms to bookshelves; expansive hand movements). He even found himself gazing at a lavatory. “It was short,” recalled a disgusted resident, John Richardson. Small businessman Troy Watson was also a touch bitter. “It’s got be some sort of publicity stunt.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • John Oliver Robocalls Ajit Pai For Not Doing More To Thwart Robocalls

      Despite endless government initiatives and countless promises from the telecom sector, our national robocall hell continues. Robocalls from telemarketers continue to be the subject the FCC receives the most complaints about (200,000 complaints annually, making up 60% of all FCC complaints), and recent data from the Robocall Index indicates that the problem is only getting worse. Consumers continue to be hammered by mortgage interest rate scams, credit card scams, student loan scams, business loan scams, and IRS scams. 4.9 billion such calls were placed in February alone..


      But as Oliver notes, there’s a lot more Pai’s FCC could do, like demanding big carriers offer their customers free robocall protection services, actually punishing those lagging behind at adopting anti-spoofing authentication tech, and narrowing the definition of robocalls to include debt collection and other purportedly “legit” but overwhelming callers. But that would require Pai actually standing up to major industries, something he’s yet to do at any meaningful point during his appointment as FCC boss.

      As it stands, predictions are that by next year, half of all calls made will be robocalls. And while companies like AT&T spent a few years trying to blame everybody else for its own failure to police the problem, it’s one of several carriers finally on the cusp of deploying SHAKEN/STIR authentication technology that should dramatically put a damper on caller ID spoofing later this year. But given the fact this is yet another cat and mouse game where scammers will quickly adapt, some carriers will lag on adoption, and fixing theses problems require a tough FCC steward willing to actually pressure the industry to do more.

    • The World Wide Web — 30 Years In

      The internet dates back to the 1960s ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) and a military project to protect intelligence data from being lost should foreign agents manage to destroy one cache. That project, with a boost from MIT grad students Larry Roberts and Leonard Kelinrock, became the ARPANET.

      ARPANET was the first working computer network and formed the basis for the modern internet. A few years later two ARPANET architects, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf, created the modern internet protocols for information sharing between computers that are still in use today.

      So that is the internet proper — the giant network of computers united by the ability to communicate and exchange data via that network. To access the internet in a comprehensible way, however, you need the World Wide Web. If the internet is the information superhighway, the web is the car that allows you to drive on it without being rolled over by torrents of data.

      And that innovation came down the pike sometime later than the original innovations that made up the internet — via a plan by physicist and self-taught computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, first developed when he was working at the CERN particle accelerator in 1989.

    • The World Wide Web turns 30: our favorite memories from A to Z
    • 30 Years On, Reports of the Web’s Death Are Exaggerated

      Today’s web wasn’t what Tim Berners-Lee envisioned 30 years ago when he pitched the idea of a “distributed hypertext system” to the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN. In his proposal, Berners-Lee described an application he created in 1980 called Enquire to keep track of his software projects. Enquire, he explained, let him create different types of “sheets” that contained information like software documentation. Some sheets could simply be links to other sheets. Wikipedia comes to mind today, but at the time Berners-Lee likened Enquire to the classic text-based game Colossal Cave Adventure (better known as Adventure) and to Apple’s Hypercard system.

    • World Wide Web Inventor on 30th Anniversary: People Horrified by Trump Election Realize Web is Not ‘Serving Humanity’

      The technology had come a long way since 1993, when CERN put the web software in the public domain. The first website published at CERN is still available to see.

      Back then, social media and streaming services did not exist. It was envisioned as a way of sharing information between scientists, academics and institutes. The tech is not to be confused with the [Internet] itself, which is the global computer network that dates back to the 1960s.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Supreme Court Patent Rundown
    • USPTO Releases Latest Report on Motions to Amend in AIA Post-Grant Review Proceedings

      Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board announced that it had updated its Motion to Amend Study to include all trials under the post-grant review proceedings enacted in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) through the end of Fiscal Year 2017 (which ended on September 30, 2018). The original study included data through April 30, 2016. At that time, only two motions to amend had been granted outright, with another four granted-in-part. This study was updated last year with data through May 31, 2017. At that time, two additional motions to amend had been granted outright, with an additional four granted-in-part. The last study included no new motions to amend granted outright, but there were two more that have been granted-in-part. At the date of the last study release (January 12, 2018), a total of fourteen motions to amend had been granted at least in part as of September 30, 2017 (out of a total of 275 completed trials in which a motion to amend was filed). The Office has also released tabulated data on all 326 completed trials.

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • Axel Voss Says Maybe YouTube Shouldn’t Exist

        I’m beginning to think that Axel Voss, the Member of the European Parliament in charge of ramming through the EU Copyright Directive, doesn’t have much of a clue about how either copyright or the internet works. Last week, we pointed out that he was making provably false statements about Article 13, and wondered why he’d be doing that. But the more he talks, the more I’m wondering if he simply doesn’t understand the basics of either copyright law or the internet. The latest comes in some quotes he gave in a great article by DW.com, which correctly highlights how Article 13 is going to lead to widespread censorship.

      • Big Fair Use Win For Mashups: ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!’ Deemed To Be Fair Use
      • German Government Confirms That Article 13 Does Mean Upload Filters, Destroying Claims To The Contrary Once And For All

        Techdirt has just written about an important intervention by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression in the debate about Article 13 of the proposed EU Copyright Directive. David Kaye said that most Internet sites “would face legal pressure to install and maintain expensive content filtering infrastructure to comply with the proposed Directive.” Despite the evident expertise of Kaye in this area, some may try to dismiss this clear condemnation of Article 13 as the UN interfering in a legislative process that really only concerns the Member States of the EU, and no one else.

      • Use and Fair Use: Statement on shared images in facial recognition AI

        Yesterday, NBC News published a story about IBM’s work on improving diversity in facial recognition technology and the dataset that they gathered to further this work. The dataset includes links to one million photos from Flickr, many or all of which were apparently shared under a Creative Commons license. Some Flickr users were dismayed to learn that IBM had used their photos to train the AI, and had questions about the ethics, privacy implications, and fair use of such a dataset being used for algorithmic training. We are reaching out to IBM to understand their use of the images, and to share the concerns of our community.

        CC is dedicated to facilitating greater openness for the common good. In general, we believe that the use of publicly available data on the Internet has led to greater innovation, collaboration, and creativity. But there are also real concerns that data can be used for negative activities or negative outcomes.

        While we do not have all the facts regarding the IBM dataset, we are aware that fair use allows all types of content to be used freely, and that all types of content are collected and used every day to train and develop AI. CC licenses were designed to address a specific constraint, which they do very well: unlocking restrictive copyright. But copyright is not a good tool to protect individual privacy, to address research ethics in AI development, or to regulate the use of surveillance tools employed online. Those issues rightly belong in the public policy space, and good solutions will consider both the law and the community norms of CC licenses and content shared online in general.

        I hope we will use this moment to build on the important principles and values of sharing, and engage in discussion with those using our content in objectionable ways, and to speak out on and help shape positive outcomes on the important issues of privacy, surveillance, and AI that impact the sharing of works on the web.

      • Official concession of upload filters by German government destroys credibility of proponents of Article 13 of EU Copyright Directive

        The European Parliament will hold its plenary debate on the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market on March 26, suggesting a plenary vote later that day or the next day. Further headway has meanwhile been made against Article 13, though probably still not enough. For an example, it’s now likely that the number of mostly (but not exclusively) young people taking to the streets on March 23 will be in the six figures. The Berlin demonstration alone (which will be the main one) is now expected to have at least 20,000 participants, with more optimistic projections being in the range from 40,000 to 50,000. By the way I’m too busy to go to Berlin, but I will participate in the Munich demonstration that same day. Recently, additional MEPs have declared their intent to vote against Article 13, including the small-in-numbers but well-respected and influential Luxembourgish delegation to the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the EU Parliament.

        Proponents of Article 13 might still succeed, but they’d pay dearly for it in the EU elections in May–and way beyond those elections. We’re talking about generations of voters who have a pretty good idea of what’s going on and are not going to take it lightly. There’s quite some awareness now among teens, twens, and people in their thirties and fourties for the issue–and there’ll be a lot more awareness among those age groups soon. No political grouping would bring up more voters against itself than the EPP, and it’s the only political group that is still largely (apart from some pockets of resistance) in favor of that crazy Article 13.

        What might happen is that the EPP will later remember its support of Article 13 as the biggest mistake in the history of that Europe-wide group of conservative (partly in name only) parties that for some time has been the most powerful political group in the EU.

        If the EPP’s national campaign managers in countries with a strong, vocal and growing anti-Article 13 movement aren’t either totally incompetent or sleepwalking through this year’s elections, they will already have realized that this is the number one problem they face, even eclipsing the issue of migration because of the power of the Internet.

      • UN Human Rights Expert Warns EU Not To Pass Article 13

        It’s the last point above that’s most important. Even as some content creators are supporting Article 13, the real impact on them will be incredibly damaging. As tons of YouTube creators have learned over the past few years, automated filters frequently create more headaches than they’re worth. Legitimate content is regularly taken down, and it’s extra difficult for independent creators to make themselves heard. And this will become much worse in a post-Article 13 world, where you have less competition, since only a few internet giants can deal with the requirements of the law.

      • ‘Rival Studios Leak Each Other’s Movies to Hurt Box Office Revenue’

        Piracy is a major problem for India’s movie industry but according to a local new report, the enemy is within. Rival production companies reportedly pirate each other’s movies to hurt box office revenues. At the same time, other insiders such as movie theater owners and even the censor board, are also implicated.

      • 100s of Rightsholder Groups Urge EU Parliament to Adopt the Copyright Directive Quickly

        A coalition of 243 organizations representing a wide range of creative industries is calling on the European Parliament to quickly adopt the proposed Copyright Directive. The planned changes, including Article 11 and Article 13, will help to create a fair and sustainable Internet, they say.

      • UN Human Rights Rapporteur: Upload Filters “Disproportionate Response” to Copyright Infringement

        David Kaye, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, has raised the alarm over the EU’s proposals for Article 13 and its de facto filtering requirements. “Such sweeping pressure for pre-publication filtering is neither a necessary nor proportionate response to copyright infringement online,” Kaye warns.

EPO ‘Results’ Are, As Usual, Not Measured Correctly

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 5:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EPO treating itself like a for-profit corporation that manufactures and delivers goods/physical items

EPO fragile parcel

Summary: The supranational monopoly, a monopoly-granting authority, is being used by António Campinos to grant an insane amount of monopolies whose merit is dubious and whose impact on Europe will be a net negative

LONGTIME READERS KNOW THAT TECHRIGHTS is not against patents but against patent maximalism (where patents have become like a religion, albeit motivated by interest in legal fees rather than scientific advancement). If patents are a case of “the more, the merrier” (they’re not), why not assign computer algorithms to generate billions of patents every hour, examine these by the billions per hour, and then put these online somewhere? Wouldn’t that take us to other galaxies? Or improve people’s lives?

The number of patent applications declined at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last year, the first year of Director Iancu, who is nowadays trying to signal that the Office will become a lot more lenient because quality of patents or merit of a monopoly is “not his department”. But this post isn’t about the US and we’d rather not focus on it. Let’s focus on Europe.

“If patents are a case of “the more, the merrier” (they’re not), why not assign computer algorithms to generate billions of patents every hour, examine these by the billions per hour, and then put these online somewhere?”EPO ‘Results’ (they use this term) are akin to financial results of corporations. They fail to actually measure something meaningful. We wrote many rebuttals (literally dozens) in 2017 and 2018 (about 2016 and 2017 ‘performance’, respectively). In past years we responded to or rebutted many press articles, but it can be an exercise in futility. They’re not really trying to report facts but to repeat what the PR department of the European Patent Office (EPO) tells them to print. Some media organisations had reported the results before the EPO announced these, so there was clearly a degree of prior coordination (if not “collusion”). That’s also true this year (earlier this week), as we noted two days ago. The EPO has been granting bogus software patents, dubbing these “AI” etc. in order to overcome the fact they’re against the EPC. Lots of fake patents have in general been granted, not just software patents. Seeing dozens of shallow, fact-free ‘articles’ about EPO ‘Results’, we’re hardly surprised. See the EPO’s Belgium slant from yesterday (as usual, cherry-picking countries to highlight only favourable figures) and this misleading propaganda (“UK pharma sector continues to grow” is the headline). The EPO has lowered the patenting bar, this does not mean that the sector is growing (never mind how awful a measure of growth patents are).

IP Watch and IAM also participated in relaying the EPO’s texts (even figures!) and IAM has just published this advice for software patents in Europe, courtesy of Carpmaels & Ransford LLP again. The EPO has made it easier to pursue software patents, more so under Campinos, with buzzwords like “AI” that nowadays just refer to “algorithm” or “computer” (nothing more sophisticated than an if-else statement). To quote:

As the law develops, the EPO updates its Guidelines for Examination in order to help patent applicants decide whether their inventions are likely to be considered patentable. Recently, the EPO has added a specific section to the guidelines on AI.

In addition, the guidelines now include clarification on how inventions directed towards graphical user interfaces are assessed. In summary, if a graphical user interface credibly assists the user in performing a technical task, then the invention is more likely to be patentable. However, if the invention merely provides an improvement from an aesthetic point of view, the EPO will take a negative stance.

That’s just ridiculous! But given what insiders are saying, this has gone on for a while.

“The EPO’s adoption of patent maximalism is going to cost Europe billions in damages; it may, as a side effect, also undermine the very existence of the Office.”We’ll continue to observe press coverage. We’re also seeing some press releases about patent grants, e.g. to HyperSolar [1, 2] and to Checkpoint Therapeutics. Earlier this week the former said:

HyperSolar, Inc. (OTCQB: HYSR), the developer of a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen, using sunlight and any source of water, today announced that it has received the European Patent Office (EPO) decision to grant the patent entitled “Multi-junction artificial photosynthetic cell with enhanced photovoltages”.

The latter said:

European Patent No. 3035936 specifically covers the compound CK-101 and a broad range of related compounds, salts and pharmaceutical compositions, including various dosage forms of such pharmaceutical compositions. It also covers certain uses of such compounds or salts in treating cancer or a disorder mediated by EGFR or NSCLC, either alone or in combination with an additional anti-cancer and/or cytotoxic agent.

Unlike software, this isn’t really my area/domain, so I can’t reliably comment on novelty. Having said that, one major concern to have is that legitimate patents get mixed with a lot of fake ones and the reputation of European Patents is, in general, eroding. The same goes for presumption of validity.

The EPO’s adoption of patent maximalism is going to cost Europe billions in damages; it may, as a side effect, also undermine the very existence of the Office.

Good News Everyone! UPC Ready to Go… in 2015!

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Notice the date

Benoît Battistelli quote

Summary: Benoît Battistelli is no longer in Office and his fantasy (patent lawyers’ fantasy) is as elusive as ever; Team UPC is trying to associate opposition to UPC with the far right (AfD) once again

TRUSTING predictions from lawyers is always a risky gambit. 4 years ago we wrote about the UPC [1, 2] on numerous occasions, at times highlighting the words of the EPO (as above), heralding that UPC was just about to start (it had done that for years prior). Here we are, in the middle of March, approaching 2020 with a decision on UPC perhaps not arriving sooner than next year (some say 2021) and Brexit uncertainty further contributes to delays. As the comments here serve to emphasise, there are additional fatal blows to the UPC — a “regulatory capture” akin to something that happened in Germany half a century ago.

Speaking of Germany, Bristows’ UPC boosters are trying to associate opposition to UPC with AfD, as usual (yesterday once again, just like before). These tactics are very familiar. As the saying goes, when you want some cause to fail you just associate it with AfD and then the public dares not support it.

New articles such as “Brexit: Bracing for IP Changes” and “A no-deal Brexit – what next for the pharma industry?” (obviously written by law firms, not journalists) have also just been published. UPC is hardly even mentioned in these because it’s widely presumed to be dead. Even law firms have more or less given up on it — more so over time.

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